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Roque Luis Santa Cruz Cantero (born 16 August 1981 in Asunciónmarker) is a Paraguayanmarker football striker currently playing for English Premier League club Manchester City and the Paraguay national football team.

Club career

Olimpia Asunción

Santa Cruz joined the Olimpia Asunción youth division at the age of nine, where he became the top scorer during several seasons until the head coach of Olimpia's first team, Luis Cubilla, invited Santa Cruz to practice with the first team squad at the age of 15. His professional debut on the first team was on 27 July 1998 in the Paraguayan Super Clásicoagainst Cerro Porteño, at the age of 16. Santa Cruz's club performance led Olimpia Asunción to a Paraguayan championship in 1998 and 1999, and the winning of the Paraguayan Footballer of the Year award.

Bayern Munich

Showing his excellence with Olimpia and the Paraguay national football team, Santa Cruz was noticed by German club Bayern Munich who eventually signed him in the second half of 1999. Santa Cruz was unexceptional at Bayern as he only scored five goals in his first season with the club, a series of injuries, and heavy competition between forwards (including Élber Giovane, Roy Makaay and Claudio Pizarro) for the German giants limited his impact.

Nonetheless, he was part of the latest successes for Bayern, winning the German league and cup double, the UEFA Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup.

Blackburn Rovers

Santa Cruz agreed a four-year deal with Blackburn Roversmarker on 28 July 2007. Blackburn agreed to pay Bayern Munich £3.5 million for the player. He scored his first goal for Rovers after just three touches of the ball when he came on as a substitute for the injured Benni McCarthy against Middlesbrough in the opening game of the 2007–08 Premier League season. Santa Cruz celebrated his 26th birthday and his first full Rovers start when he scored the winner away to MYPA in the UEFA Cup.

Santa Cruz scored his first hat-trick for Blackburn in a 5–3 loss to Wigan Athletic on 15 December 2007, becoming the first player in over ten years in English football to score a hat-trick for the losing side, since Dwight Yorke's hat-trick on 30 September 1996 for Aston Villa in their 4–3 away loss to Newcastle United. On 12 January 2008, he was named Premier League "Player of the Month" for December 2007.

Following a successful 2007–08 campaign, there was much transfer speculation surrounding Santa Cruz at the start of the 2008–09 season. However, Santa Cruz signed a four-year contract with Blackburn in August to end the speculation. He became a target for Manchester City following their takeover by the billionaire Abu Dhabi United Group. In January 2009, they had bids of £12 million and £16 million rejected by Blackburn, with the club stating it would take £25 million for them to even consider selling their star striker. On 2 February 2009, City failed to meet the reported £25 million asking price. On 20 April 2009, there were rumours that Santa Cruz was planning to leave Rovers after the 2008–09 season, less than 12 months after signing a new deal with the Premier League club, although he denied these rumours, saying that they were "lost in translation."

Manchester City

On 21 June 2009, it was reported that Santa Cruz was undergoing a medical at Manchester City ahead of a proposed summer transfer worth £18 million. Confirmation that the deal had been completed was released later that same day.

Santa Cruz scored his first City goal on 28 October 2009 against Scunthorpemarker in the Carling Cup.

International career

Paraguay U-20

Santa Cruz made a name for himself at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, where he scored three goals for a surprising Paraguay team. His performance there led to a call-up to the full Paraguay national team for the Copa América at the age of 17.

Paraguay Senior

Santa Cruz made his senior debut at age 17 for Paraguay at Copa América leading his national team in scoring with three goals. He also scored a total of seven goals in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup qualification rounds, and appeared in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where he scored one goal while helping his team advance to the elimination rounds.

Santa Cruz was in doubt for the 2006 World Cup as he was recovering from a serious knee injury. However, he recovered in time for the start of the tournament and played all three group stage matches for Paraguay. Santa Cruz was not able to score a goal, but he did assist Nelson Cuevas and had a good game in the 2–0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago. Despite the win, Paraguay failed to qualify to the second round of the tournament. Santa Cruz scored a hat trick against Colombia in a 5–0 Paraguayan victory during the Copa América 2007 in Venezuelamarker. Currently, he is one of Paraguay's top scorers (three goals) in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Career statistics

(correct as of 28 September 2009)


Club Season League Cup South America
/ Europe
Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Olimpia Asunción 1998–99 23 13 - - - - 13 5 ? 36 18 ?
Total 23 13 13 5 36 18 ?
Bayern Munich 1999–00 28 5 - 4 2 - - - - 32 7 -
2000–01 19 5 - - - - - - - 19 5 -
2001–02 22 5 - - - - 10 3 - 32 8 -
2002–03 14 5 - - - - - - - 14 5 -
2003–04 29 5 - - - - 8 1 - 37 6 -
2004–05 4 0 - - - - - - - 4 - -
2005–06 13 4 - - - - 2 0 - 15 4 -
2006–07 26 2 - 2 0 - 7 1 - 35 3 -
Total 155 31 - 6 2 - 27 5 - 188 38 ?
Blackburn Roversmarker 2007–08 37 19 7 3 3 0 3 1 0 43 23 8
2008–09 20 4 2 7 2 0 0 0 0 27 6 2
Total 57 23 9 10 5 0 3 1 0 70 29 10
Manchester City 2009–10 4 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 7 1 0
Total 4 0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 7 1 0
Career total 236 67 9 16 7 0 43 11 0 295 85 10


Honours

Olimpia Asunción
FC Bayern Munich


Personal life

Santa Cruz married Giselle Tavarelli, the sister of his former national team and Olimpia teammate Ricardo, in 2003. They have a son named Tobias (born 17 December 2003), and a daughter named Fiorella (born 11 November 2005). Santa Cruz has a younger brother named Julio who plays for Blackburn Rovers in the reserve squad and another brother named Diego who died in 2005; he was also a professional football player.

In a 2006 FIFA World Cup edition of German magazine Kicker magazine, he was voted the sexiest man to be taking part in the tournament. He was also chosen by the German newspaper Die Welt as the sexiest footballer of the 2006 World Cup. He has appeared on the cover of the German version of Pro Evolution Soccer 6.

References

External links




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