Twenty years after making his senior debut for Argentinos Juniors, Julio Arca has called time on his playing career at the age of 37.
Arca was brought to Sunderland in 2000 by Peter Reid for a fee of £3.5m and soon became a fan favourite, thanks in part due to scoring on a his debut, in a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham United and by the end of the season was voted Young Player of the Year by fans.
The highlight of his short international career came shortly after moving to Sunderland, when he was selected in the Argentina side that won the FIFA World Youth Championship in his home nation. Arca was a regular at left back during that tournament and was joined in the squad by Reid’s less successful Argentian recruit Nicolas Media.
Argentina beat Djibril Cisse’s France in the quarter-final, thrashed Paraguay in the semi-final and in the final they comfortably beat a Ghana side that featured John Mensah and Sulley Muntari.
Arca was just at home on the left wing as he was at left back and stood out in a workmanlike Sunderland side, particularly near the end of his spell on Wearside, with his silky skills standing out at a time where the team on the pitch were on a downward spiral. Those silky skills were never more apparent than with his goal against Bradford, where he ran to the edge of the opposition box from deep inside his own half and deftly chipped Mark Paston in the Bradford goal.
11 years ago Julio Arca played his last game for #SAFC after 7 years on Wearside. Who remembers this cracker from 2003 v Bradford?Posted by Sunderland AFC on Saturday, April 22, 2017
He also provided one of the few highlights of the 15-point season with his perfectly taken free kick against Middlesbrough.
Goal of the day!— Roker Report (@RokerReport) January 18, 2017
Julio Arca's superb free kick against Middlesbrough back in 2005 - the guy was pure class! pic.twitter.com/PInl6ESs3d
His popularity as a player was helped thanks to Arca buying into the club and the area. You can read an interview with Julio, where he explains exactly why he loves Sunderland HERE and you can watch him reflecting on his time at the club with safc.com below.
By the time he left the club in 2006, Arca had racked up 157 appearances for Sunderland, scoring 17 times and was named in the PFA Team of the Year for the Championship two seasons in a row.
Unfortunately his career went downhill rapidly after leaving Sunderland thanks to a move to Middlesbrough but he recovered after his professional retirement as he was instrumental in South Shields’ recent successes, capped off with their FA Vase win at Wembley.
What are your favourite memories of Julio Arca?