Man U added another keeper Sergio Romero in case David de Gea hits the road. The Daily Mail- Amid the chaotic outpouring of joy that followed Argentina’s progression into the 2014 World Cup final – one that, sweetly, would be held in the Maracana, the sacred home of their great rivals Brazil – Sergio Romero found time to give thanks.
Not to his own coach, not to any of of his team-mates, not to some higher being – but to the man in charge of the vanquished opposition.
After all, Louis van Gaal was the man who apparently taught him to save penalties. And he had just applied those skills in a shoot-out to eliminate Van Gaal’s Holland at the semi-final stage, carrying Argentina to their moment of destiny.
‘I went to Louis to thank him because he helped me when I arrived in Holland,’ Romero later recalled. ‘I went to a country where I didn’t understand a word of the language. He helped me and I’m thankful for everything he did for me.
‘I know he said he taught me to save penalties. The truth is that he teaches the players a lot. From the first day in Holland, he said to me that the goalkeeper in one of the team, one of 11 players.’
That was back in 2007, when Van Gaal brought the Argentine from his homeland to play for AZ Alkmaar in Holland, teaching him the Dutch language and what to do in the pressure cooker of the penalty shoot-out.
Now the pair have been reunited, after Romero signed a three-year contract at Manchester United over the weekend and linked up with his new colleagues on their pre-season tour of the United States.
In classic Van Gaal style, he nurtured Romero at Alkmaar from an unknown 20-year-old to one of Europe’s finest goalkeepers and an established international.
Now, after Romero had become surplus to Sampdoria’s requirements at the aged of 28, he has given him a sense of purpose once again.
If David de Gea ultimately leaves for Real Madrid and Victor Valdes also departs Old Trafford as is expected, Romero will be United’s No 1 goalkeeper in the coming season.
And should they be forced to ‘go the distance’ and win a shoot-out in their Champions League or domestic cup engagements, Romero is certainly a handy man to have between the posts.
Romero was born in the town of Bernardo de Irigoyen, about as far north-east as you can go in Argentina before it becomes Brazil.
Spotted by scouts from Club Almirante Brown, Romero moved as a teenager to the suburbs of the capital Buenos Aires and was later snapped up by Racing Club, one of the country’s most famous teams.
Hilariously, the 6ft 3.5in Romero has the nickname ‘Chiquito’ (tiny, small) because he is dwarfed by his basketball-playing brother Diego, who stands at 6ft 9in.
His childhood idol was Ubaldo Fillol, the keeper who helped Argentina to glory in the 1978 World Cup.
Romero said of him: ‘When it comes to football, ‘El Pato’ is my father. Everything I’ve achieved is down to him. He’s the best Argentina ever had.’
Van Gaal brought Romero over to Alkmaar, the unheralded and long-slumbering Dutch club he was gradually restoring to power, at the end of the 2007 season.
After a slow start, Romero displaced Boy Waterman as the club’s No 1 and, as they upset the traditional giants of Dutch football to win the Eredivisie title in 2009, he didn’t concede for 950 minutes – 107 off the national record.
But when he made an error that led to Alkmaar being eliminated from the Dutch Cup by NAC Breda that season, Romero responded by punching the door and walls of the changing room so hard he broke bones in his hand and ruled himself out of the crucial run-in.
‘It wasn’t smart of Sergio to vent his frustrations like this,’ said Van Gaal at the time. ‘But that is his Argentine temperament.’
He remained in Alkmaar for four years, a time which also saw him marry the Argentine model and actress Eliano Guercio, who is nine years his senior.
She is best known for appearing fully nude in an episode of ‘Mas que diferente’, a show on Argentinean television.
Sampdoria paid £1.5m for Romero in 2011 and he helped them bounce back to Serie A at the first time of asking via the play-offs.
Strangely, although Romero was permanently Argentina’s No 1, he fell out of favour at his club and was loaned to Monaco for the 2013-14 season. Even here, he was second choice to Danijel Subasic and managed just three league matches.
Matters didn’t improve last season and he was released by Sampdoria having played just 20 matches in the last two seasons.
‘I can’t do this for much longer,’ he admitted back then, rubbishing suggestions that he had turned down a move to United last year.
Accordingly, his finest hours have come at international level, where he has 62 caps to his name.
He played alongside Lionel Messi in the team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Diego Maradona promoted him to first choice when in charge, meaning Romero played all five matches at the 2010 World Cup.
While that adventure ended in a miserable 4-0 loss to Germany, to come so close in Brazil last summer was a greater agony.
After Romero’s heroics in the semi-final shoot-out, they couldn’t complete the job as Mario Gotze’s extra time winner wrecked their dreams of lifting the World Cup in the Maracana.
Romero’s reputation was undoubtedly enhanced, however, with Rihanna revealing herself as an unlikely fan with a tweet that read ‘Romero is on point!’ as he made a vital save in the 1-0 win over Iran.
Now, once again, Van Gaal will have the opportunity to put Romero’s skills to good use for his benefit, rather than against him.