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On This Day (17 November 1954): Sunderland’s first Argentinian import Claudio Marangoni is born

Rosario, Santa Fe, has produced some footballing legends down the years, and Claudio Marangoni - who turns 67 today - was the first to make an impact on Wearside. Feliz Cumpleaños!

Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images

When we look down the list of famous names to come out of the footballing and political hotbed of Argentina’s third-largest city, Rosario, we see some absolute legends: Marcello Bielsa, Lionel Messi, Che Guevara... and Claudio Marangoni.

Yes, the first Sunderland player to be born on the South American continent, the first Argentine footballer to come and ply his trade on Wearside when he transferred from the famous San Lorenzo club, after coming through at Buenos Aires-based Chacarita Juniors.

He had - as Julio Arca would after him - claimed Italian citizenship to aid his arrival into Europe, and was previously been a target for Wolverhampton Wanderers - even training with the West Midlands side.

But Marangoni eventually signed on for Ken Knighton at Roker Park for a club-record £320,000 in December, a fee that wouldn't be surpassed until Tony Norman’s arrival from Hull City in 1988.

His time on Wearside was relatively short and he divided opinions amongst supporters, with Knighton defending his marquee acquisition as a way to transform his Second Division side’s play. In an interview with the Newcastle Journal on 24th January 1980, Marangoni tried to play down expectations and emphasise the time needed to adapt to playing in a wholly strange environment and in the English style:

So many things are new to me: chasing back - closing players down - picking up opponents. There was none of that in Argentina. There we played the game with a slower build up. Here it is very quick, putting the ball upheld as quickly as possible. And it’s also very physical.

He had, by the time of the interview, started to adapt following his debut on 8th December 1979 in a 2-1 win over Cardiff City in which he had a goal ruled out following the referee calling a halt to play to usher some photographers from the edge of the field of play. He scored his first for the club in the next home game against, Shrewsbury.

The debut goal that never was against Cardiff at Roker Park

He was subbed at half time against Wrexham, but netted again in the following fixture, a 1-0 win away to Fulham. The last of his three goals for the club came in a 3-3 draw away at Cambridge United:

My game against Cambridge was perhaps my best yet, and I feel better with every game that goes by. I have three goals in eight games - not everyone has a record like that. Before I came the team was doing badly away from home, losing most of their matches and drawing just two. But since I came we have got points from every away match apart from Newcastle.

Alas, that waste be the end of his goalscoring for the Lads and after another 14 games, he would be back on the plane to his homeland. He would go on to play nine games for the Argentinian national team and represent the giants of Independente - winning the Primera Division and the Copa Libertadores - and Boca Juniors, with whom he won further continental honours.

In retirement, he founded a soccer school that worked with underprivileged children across Argentina and Chile.

It might not have worked out for him on Wearside, but Claudio Marangoni paved the way for a future where Sunderland AFC would recruit players from around the world, bringing flair, creativity and different perspectives on the game to supporters of our great club.


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