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Roberto Fabián Ayala (born 14 April 1973 in Paraná, Argentina), nicknamed El Ratón is an Argentinemarker football player for the Spanishmarker team Real Zaragoza. Regarded as one of the best central defenders, he has been captain of the Argentine national team for more matches than anyone else. He has captained 63 matches and has played in three World Cups. Ayala made 115 international appearances, only Javier Zanetti having more caps for Argentina.

Roberto inherited the nickname of Ratón (Mouse) from Argentine 1974 World Cup player Rubén Ayala, though they are not related.

Football career

Early Career in Argentina

Ayala began his career in his native Argentina, playing for Ferro Carril Oeste. After three seasons, he moved to River Plate where his good form atrracted the attention of clubs in Europe.

Move To Europe

Parma, Napoli & AC Milan

Italian club Parma FC brought the Argentine defender to Europe. However the club, having already used their quota of three non-EU players, loaned him to Napoli, who bought up half of his contract on a co-ownership deal. Ayala was bought by AC Milan at the end of the 1997-98 season and played there for two seasons until Valencia CF bought him for £6.25 Million.


During his 7 years at Valencia CF, he helped them reach one UEFA Champions League final in 2001. However his team lost to [Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw. In the latter of which he was voted the Best Defender of the 2001 UEFA Champions League season. The next year, Valencia won the 2001-02 Spanish La Liga. In 2003-04, Valencia again won the Spanish La Liga and added the UEFA Cup.

In 2004-05 injuries kept Ayala from much of the La Liga campaign and he missed the UEFA Super Cup 2004 victory over Portomarker.

During his time with Valencia, he was widely regarded as one of the finest central defenders in the world, and with Valencia is where he would spend the majority of his peak playing career.

Villarreal and Real Zaragoza

In August 2006, he was not offered a new contract by sporting director Amedeo Carboni. On February 7, 2007 Ayala announced he would join regional rivals Villarreal CF at the end of 2006/07. However, before having played for Villarreal, he joined Real Zaragoza on a three-year deal on 14 July 2007. The buy-out clause in his contract with Villarreal was €6 million (£4.8 Million) which was paid in full by Real Zaragoza.

On 3 May 2008, Ayala scored his first goal for Real Zaragoza in the 94th minute versus Deportivo La Coruna to lead Zaragoza to a 1-0 victory. Zaragoza however are now playing in the Spanish 2nd Division.On Saturday, November 22, 2008, Roberto Ayala scored his second ever goal for Real Zaragoza in the 73rd minute as Real Zaragoza defeated SD Eibar 3-0. On Saturday, February 29, 2009, Ayala scored his third goal for Real Zaragoza in the 54th minute against Real Murcia as Zaragoza won the match 4-1.

International career

He made his debut for Argentina on 16 November 1994, against Chile under coach Daniel Passarella.

Ayala played for Argentina at the 1996 Summer Olympics, winning the silver medal. He played for Argentina in the 1998 World Cup and was a non-playing squad member in the 2002 competition due a last minute injury moments before their first match against Nigeria. He was then selected as an over-age player as Argentina won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.Ayala played an integral part in the Argentine squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germanymarker. He played brilliantly throughout the tournament, and was picked as a member of the All Star Team. In the quarterfinal against Germany he scored a header that gave Argentina the 1-0 lead. Argentina lost the penalty shootout after the 1-1 tie, with Ayala's spot kick being saved by Jens Lehmann.

On 30 May 2006, In a friendly match against Angola, Ayala completed 100 caps for Argentina.

One of the best defenders in Argentina history, on 7 February 2007, Ayala became the most capped player of the National team (most of the times as captain), beating his friend Diego Simeone, in a friendly victory 1-0 against France played in Stade de Francemarker, Parismarker.

On 5 June 2007, in a friendly against Algeria, Roberto Ayala captained Argentina for a record 58th international, having equalled Diego Maradona's mark of 57 in the 1-1 draw against Switzerland in Baselmarker on Saturday 2 June.

On 17 July 2007, after playing in the Copa América 2007 final against Brazil, during which he scored an own goal, Ayala announced his retirement from international football. Ayala stated, "it has nothing to do with what happened in the final of the Copa America." Javier Zanetti took over him as captain.

Career statistics

Correct as of 14 June, 2009

International goals


International honours


Club honours

River Plate




Valencia CF



  1. Clarin newspaper Ayala: "Mi ciclo en la Selección está terminado" (Spanish)
  2. Ayala: "Mi ciclo en la Selección está terminado"

1991-92 Ferro Carril Oeste Primera División 18 0
1992-93 36 0
1993-94 18 1
1993-94 River Plate Primera División 16 0
1994-95 24 0

1995-96 Napoli Serie A 29 0
1996-97 30 1
1997-98 28 0
1998-99 Milan Serie A 11 0
1999-00 13 0

2000-01 Valencia La Liga 28 1
2001-02 30 2
2002-03 31 1
2003-04 30 1
2004-05 17 0
2005-06 23 2
2006-07 29 2
2007-08 Real Zaragoza La Liga 33 1
2008-09 Segunda División 26 3
February 19, 1998
Mendozamarker, Argentinamarker
2 – 1
September 7, 1999
Porto Alegremarker, Brazilmarker
2 – 4
April 26, 2000
Maracaibomarker, Venezuelamarker
4 – 0
World Cup 2002 Qualifying
July 13, 2004
Piuramarker, Perumarker
4 – 2
Copa América 2004
November 12, 2005
Genevamarker, Switzerlandmarker
2 – 3
November 16, 2005
Dohamarker, Qatarmarker
3 – 0
June 30, 2006
Berlinmarker, Germanymarker
1 – 1 (2-4 PS)
2006 FIFA World Cup

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