By Santiago Schwarzstein
As they say, people always find their way back to their first love. In Ignacio Scocco’s professional career, that would be Newell’s Old Boys, and boy, is that saying true. The striker, with a brief pass through the Premier League wearing Sunderland’s colours, holds a special place in his heart for the club, to the point he carries its crest on his skin.
But this story goes a long way back to the year 2004. Back then, Nacho was a long-haired rookie just promoted to the first team. After five years in the academy, he made his debut at nineteen years old under the wing of Américo “Tolo” Gallego, Argentinian world cup winner and legend, who was coaching the team at the time. Jumping on the pitch from the bench, Scocco scored two goals in six games in a season that would remain forever in his memory not only because of his professional debut, but also for obtaining the Apertura ‘04 title, the fifth in the club’s history.
As the years passed and Nacho grew, he started earning his place in the starting eleven goal after goal, both in the domestic and the international stage. In 2006, by the age of twenty one, Scocco scored nine in nineteen matches, ending up fifth in the goalscorers table and catching the eye of Mexico’s Pumas UNAM manager, who secured him for almost $3 million.
As Scocco made his way through Mexico, and later knowing European football in AEK Athens, things started to go south in Rosario. Newell’s dictator-like chairman Eduardo López made the club his cash register, and through fraudulent operations, diverted transfer funds to his own pocket.
By 2012, with López long gone and the team on the edge of relegation, hope was all but lost. It seemed Newell’s was beyond help, and it would’ve been if not for its legends. Newell’s broke the market when world class figures started announcing their return: first it was coach Gerardo Martino, who renounced a millionaire contract with Colombia’s national team to take over his birth club. Then Maxi Rodríguez, who was a regular at Liverpool, decided he should lend a hand; and finally Gabriel Heinze, probably Newell’s man with the most dazzling career, knowing how to play in Europe’s top clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid and Olympique Marseille. Among these unbelievable names, Scocco’s return from the low profile Arabian Al-Ain almost went unnoticed, as Newell’s fans were much more excited, and with reason, about the other signings.
Nacho watched the first two games from the start, as he was working on his physical form, given that Tata considered “he wasn’t ready” and that “they didn’t want to risk a muscular injury”.
However, the third game of the season Scocco made it to the bench. The team was struggling to keep a 1-0 advantage against San Martín de San Juan at home and it really looked like they were about to concede. After a failed attempt by their rivals, Tata sent the striker in. What happened was a tease of what that season would be. The goal kick was brought under control by Nacho, who eluded the defender and found the top corner with a spectacular 30-yard strike. A dream return.
Number thirty two crawled to the top of the goalscorers table, with thirteen goals in nineteen matches, but Newell’s sadly fell short in the title race, ending up being runners up to Vélez. Mixed feelings reigned among fans as the relegation ghost was driven away but the chance to secure another title after nine years slipped away.
Nevertheless, Martino’s side wanted revenge. On a personal level, the following tournament would go just as the previous one, with Scocco once again leading the striker rankings, this time with eleven goals to his name. The team however would go one better and this time Nacho and his teammates could celebrate. Scocco, in doing so, becoming the last player to be a two-time champion to this day.