Back in January my friends and I took a trip to Bremen; a cheap weekend away with some Bundesliga football thrown in to the mix was an offer too good to turn down. After all, I can remember the days of AIlton in green and white so I’ve always had a soft spot for Werder. It finished Werder Bremen 3-3 Hertha Berlin, an exhilarating game – as most six goal encounters are – that featured a Claudio Pizarro brace. Ever since we have been keeping an eye on Werder’s results and one message has continued to crop up: ‘Pizarro has scored again’. Yet this past weekend it was special, Werder’s prodigal son made it 100 for die Grün-Weißen: he became a centurion.
As I went to buy my scarf at the Weserstadion – it’s a necessity on any football trip – there were three what I would describe as player scarfs, featuring Zlatko Junuzović, Anthony Ujah and Claudio Pizarro all featured. As we got on to Ostkurve, Junuzović, and Ujah scarves were rare, Pizarro scarves, however, were tightly wrapped around many necks, the Peruvian’s face proudly showing. While he may have played more matches in the red and white of the southern steamroller, Bayern Munich, Pizarro undoubtedly bleeds green. And the love is mutual.
For Werder fans Claudio Pizarro has been the son that keeps moving out, only to come back. These are the parents that are more than happy to accommodate. This is technically the Peruvian’s fourth stint on the Weser – after a loan from Chelsea (his second stint) he joined on a permanent transfer the following summer – but this time he returned from Bavaria as a 37-year-old.
The Peruvian’s arrival would provide many with nostalgia to the glory days – he was greeted at the airport by hundreds of fans and the club shop sold out of the famous no.14 jerseys – but could he still cut the mustard? Could a player entering his 19th season of professional football lead the line in a high-octane, fast-paced Bundesliga?
For some time this season the jury was out concerning Pizarro’s effectiveness. His first goal didn’t come until November in an away win against Augsburg, and as we headed in to the Rückrunde Pizarro had got his name on the scoresheet on three occasions. Question marks surrounded the move, as SVW languished in the lower depths of the table, relegation a real fear. Perhaps we all should have known better — this was one of the Bundesliga’s top ten scorers of all-time and the leading foreign scorer who after the one real troublesome spell of his career with Chelsea came back to guide Werder to a DFB Pokal victory and a UEFA Cup final.
They say that the best things in life are worth waiting for but in the world of football it is often a view that is full of dreams and reliant on intangibles. With Claudio Pizarro, however, a phrase couldn’t be more apt.
After goals in consecutive games before the winter break, Pizarro returned with five in four, scoring in all of them – wins at Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen included. Yet in the last fortnight, the 37-year-old has been riding one mighty wave, the type that would make the keenest surfer back home in surf mad Peru envious, one that has dragged Werder out of the relegation spots in the process. The hat-trick at the BayArena in a 4-1 win made Pizarro the oldest scorer of a top flight treble and just top it all off ‘Piza’ – as he is affectionately known in Bremen – made it a century in another 4-1 win, this over lowly Hannover this past matchday.
Levin Öztunali floated in a cross from the right-flank; Pizarro took it down with his right foot, nonchalantly flicked it over the oncoming Hannover defenders – yes plural – and hammered it home with the left. Quite frankly it was fitting. The Peruvian, who could in all honesty be mistaken for a mature male model, did it fitting style. The Weserstadion was his runway and he produced one of his finest pieces of work in his best outfit: the green and white.
In his fourth spell he’s answered his first set of questions resoundingly but more will follow and even the most adoring Pizarro fan will wonder how long the 37-year-old has left. Pizarro has never possessed raw pace, even less so nowadays but the diet has been finely tuned,” I’ve swapped dishes with pasta for spelt noodles. I also don’t eat vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and aubergines, but I eat a lot of rice and fish and I drink soya or almond milk instead of full-fat milk,” he said to FIFA.com, and Piza has *touch wood* had an injury free season.
It is hard to pick any holes in a club career that has delivered countless honours and equally goals but the one black mark that still remains is the lack of production for country. Still yet to lead Peru out at a World Cup he wants to end the 36 year wait for those back home. Pizarro:” I feel very good at the moment. It’s my big dream to play at a World Cup with my country. There’s no doubt that 2018 is still a long way away, but I hope to be able to make it. It’ll be difficult, but the dream remains alive.” Werder will only prove to be the beneficiaries of two more years of Claudio. (Pizarro will have a chance of Peruvian glory in June at the Copa America Centenario — his country drawn in group with Brazil, Ecuador and Haiti).
This could prove to be a season of records for Claudio Pizarro as he now sits one goal shy of Marco Bode’s club record. This weekend’s opponents are Bayern Munich and quite frankly the beautiful game has thrown up some more unlikely tales over the years.
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