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Slovakia v Paraguay: Group F - 2010 FIFA World Cup

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On This Day (12th May 2010): Sunderland clinch the signing of World Cup-destined star!

Paulo Da Silva’s mate joined the club as Brucey cast his net far and wide.

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

When Steve Bruce arrived at the club, our transfer net began to be cast further and wider than it had since Peter Reid trawled Honduras and somehow caught Milton Nunez, who really should have slipped through the net.

Paraguay seemed to be a firm favourite; Brucey taking a fancy to the landlocked South American country. First, Paulo Da Silva – who’d had a spell in Italy before playing more than 200 games over six seasons before, aged 29, signing up for (yet another) new era at Sunderland.

Then, Bruce turned his attention to Da Silva’s international teammate, Salvador Cabanas. The Club Americas striker was highly rated, registering more than a goal every other game in club football – he was ‘known for his array of skills, such as excellent heading, accurate shooting with either foot, receiving the ball in tight spaces, and a combination of technique, power, and positional sense.’ Sounded ideal.

Cabanas was about to join the club in the January transfer window of 2010, only to be shot in the head while at a bar in Mexico City. While he ended up surviving the incident, it obviously put paid to his transfer to the Premier League.

We signed Benjani instead.

Aguilas del America v Rayados de Monterrey
Cabanas was a big name in South American football
Photo by Francisco Estrada/Jam Media/LatinContent via Getty Images

Fast forward a few months, and Paraguay – with Da Silva, minus Cabanas – are headed to the South Africa World Cup, and Bruce got in early.

We clinched the signing of highly-rated and talented midfielder Cristian Riveros on a three-year contract – Riveros, who was a fixture in the international team, was out of contract after three years in Mexico with Cruz Azul, and hadn’t been put off by the fate of his international teammate.

For Bruce, it marked the end of a long chase for Riveros – while Wigan manager, he’d been quoted £12m for him and, with a World Cup in the offing, a strong showing would have had a number of suitors lined up.

We have been monitoring Cristian for a while now so I’m delighted to have concluded a deal which will bring him to Sunderland and the Premier League. He is a very creative midfielder and a player that will enhance our attacking options from wide positions for next season.

Remember those words...

Riveros himself said:

The league is very competitive and Sunderland have shown great trust in me as a person and as a footballer. The history here is good and I’m delighted to be joining the club.

Riveros immediately headed off to join up with the Paraguayan squad, who played a few European-based friendlies before heading to South Africa, with Sunderland supporters paying close attention to the team donning red and white.

Paraguay v Spain: 2010 FIFA World Cup - Quarter Finals
Riveros in action in the quarter final vs Spain
Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Their displays certainly raised hopes – Da Silva was dominant and controlled the defensive line, while Riveros showed a nice array of passing and stability in a more defensive midfield holding role.

Concerningly, however, he didn’t quite seem to match up with Bruce’s description. He wasn’t the type of midfielder who’d drastically improve our attack – although he did get a goal, set up by Da Silva, in a group game against Slovakia as Paruguay made the quarters, being knocked out by Spain.

Unfortunately, Riveros never really established himself at Sunderland – he was rarely given a chance and, when he did, looked a little out of sorts. Not surprising when, it was clear he was a holding midfielder, but had evidently been bought on the assumption he could do something completely different...

Less than a year later, he’d played his last game for the club.

Sunderland’s Paraguayan midfielder Crist
Riveros made only five league starts in his year at the club
Photo credit should read GRAHAM STUART/AFP via Getty Images

On This Day (9 June 2007): Midfielder turns down Sunderland return – and heads to Bolton instead


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