Roberto “Pato” Abbondanzieri

With a club like Boca Juniors, that can count on such an illustrious history, you can always find a legend to root for. No two “best XIs” would be the same, and in the goalkeeper position there would be many candidates. From Hugo Gatti, to Carlos Montoya; from Américo Tesoriere to Roberto Abbondanzieri. The latter was one of the best goalkeepers in the world in the first part of the century.

El Pato came through the ranks at Rosario Central where he played between 1994 and 1996, winning the Copa CONMEBOL in 1995 after beating Brazil’s Atlético Mineiro on penalties. His form at the Gigante led to a move to Boca Juniors, who needed to replace the departing legend Carlos Montoya who had moved to La Liga after eight years at La Bombonera.

Initially Abbondanzieri played second fiddle to Colombian stopper Óscar Córdoba who arrived in the same transfer window. It wasn’t until 2002, when Córdoba moved to Perugia, that El Pato finally became solidified as Boca’s number one. the Clausura of 1998 that Pato would get his chance.

During the time Abbondanzieri was Córdoba’s backup, he witnessed Boca’s famous treble of 2000, when the Buenos Aires club dominated the world. The manager who masterminded that triumph, and worked with Abbondanzieri for a large portion of his spell at Boca Juniors was the great Carlos Bianchi.

In 2003, under Bianchi, the club would once again pull off a treble, winning the Copa Libertadores, Apertura, and the Intercontinental Cup, where this time Italian giants AC Milan were vanquished. During the match against the Rossoneri Abbondanzieri stopped penalties from Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Costacurta.

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Pato was a massively decorated player during his time with Boca, winning numerous titles as well as a plethora of individual awards including South American Goalkeeper of the Year in (2003).

After featuring at the World Cup with Argentina in 2006, Boca sold Pato to Getafe. In his first year in La Liga Abbondanzieri won the coveted Zamora Trophy and helped his side reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup where they were eliminated by German giants Bayern Munich.

In 2009, upon his wishes, Getafe sold Abbondanzieri was sold back to Boca as Pato wished to finish his career there. His return to Buenos Aires wasn’t as successful as his first spell, and he endured a trophyless year back at La Bombonera. Before hanging up the gloves Abbondanzieri still had time to add a fourth Copa Libertadores to his haul, this time with Brazilian side Internacional. He was later recognised by IFFHS, who named him 10th in the list for the best goalkeepers of the first decade of the 21st century.

Throughout his career Pato was constantly involved with the national team, starting out at the under-16 World Cup in 1989 where Argentina were eliminated by Luis Figo and Portugal. His debut with the senior team came in the 2004 Copa América and in the 2006 World Cup Abbondanzieri was having an outstanding match against Germany until a collision with Miroslav Klose ended his evening and, ultimately, tournament as Argentina were dumped out by the hosts.

His last appearances for La Albiceleste came in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup where another injury, this time against Paraguay, saw the curtain come down on his international career. Since retirement Pato has gone into coaching, linking up with former teammate and good friend Martín Palermo.

By Stephen Brandt

Part of our Number Ones series

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