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Whatever happened to... Paraguayan midfielder Cristian Riveros?

It’s not often that Sunderland will source new players from South America, but - Julio Arca aside - our success rate in signings from that part of the world is poor.

Sunderland v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

We have been working a long time on Riveros. I tried to sign him two years ago - I was quoted £12m and couldn't afford him.

Steve Bruce had a decent record in purchasing players in the season before Riveros arrived on Wearside. Darren Bent and Lee Cattermole had proved successful and now the Sunderland manager was bringing in £12m-rated players for absolutely nothing. With a solid scouting team in place we were plucking highly-rated South Americans for pennies, all whilst giving the team a solid and youthful British spine.

Riveros’ performances for Paraguay during that year’s World Cup in South Africa were impressive. Controlled in possession and comfortable at building up play with his teammates, a delightful long range effort for his country seemed to cement the belief amongst the expectant Sunderland fans that Brucey had indeed signing a bargain - and all for free of charge.

His introduction to the Sunderland team was slow and steady. His pre-season was disrupted by his involvement in the World Cup, meaning his input in the opening months of his debut season at the club was minimal.

When afforded the opportunity to start, Riveros’ performances were largely forgettable - at home to Arsenal he missed a simple chance to equalise, failing to connect from a superb Ahmed Elmohamady cross.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Although he was afforded the benefit of the doubt by the Sunderland supporters, his brief yet below average outings became concerning very quickly, with the South American more often than not an unused substitute. With Jordan Henderson and Lee Cattermole forming an impressive midfield partnership, we were sat in sixth come November on the back of some outstanding results - such as a 3-0 thrashing of Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Quite simply, Riveros looked out of his depth and everyone seemed to know it.

Kayserispor v Besiktas JK - Turkish Super League
Cristian Riveros of Kayserispor
Photo by Huseyin Caglar/EuroFootball/Getty Images

His only season in England followed that pattern until season’s end, when he made a goalscoring return to the team on the final day of the season. His 90th minute goal down at already-relegated West Ham was his final contribution to the team before his move to Turkish side Kayserispor - originally on a loan deal. Steve Bruce would later lament his inability to adapt to the physical side of the English game.

Following his permanent transfer to Kayseri, he featured in 30 games and scored a grand total of zero goals. Much of this was down the fact he was converted solely into a deep lying defensive midfielder. Capable of keeping the play simple, Riveros sitting deep allowed the likes of Sefa Yılmaz and Bobô to effect the play in the advanced third.

Gremio v FIgueirense - Brasileirao Series A 2014
Cristian Riveros of Gremio battles for the ball against Clayton of Figueirense
Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

However come to end of the season Riveros craved for a move back to his native South America. Unable to settle in Turkey, he moved on to Brazilian club Gremio, where he spent a season before a transfer back to his native Paraguay with Club Olimpia in 2015 - where he remains to this day.

Riveros’ impact at Sunderland was barely noticeable and the fact he was unable to translate his South American flair to the English game was perhaps a nod to the notion that in order to succeed at a club like Sunderland, you need to have a little more about you.

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