It happened last Saturday. Valencia midfielder Éver Banega filled his car with petrol and went into the shop to pay. There was just one problem: he'd left the handbrake off. When he came out, his car was rolling away. So he tried to stop it the way a footballer stops a ball -- with his foot. The car crushed his ankle, breaking his fibula. Banega was operated on and although the operation was a success, he will be about of action for six months. Let's be honest: at first it was funny. But when the news hit, you just felt desperately sorry for him. Six months, for goodness' sake. And all because he forgot to leave the handbrake on.
There have been plenty of nasty injuries over the years in Spain: just earlier this season Athletic's Oscar de Marcos needed 25 stitches in his gonads after getting booted in exactly the wrong place; Julen Guerrero was famously left with a hole like a bullet wound after Diego Simeone stamped on his thigh; Sevilla's Pablo Alfaro marked one opponent by inserting a finger somewhere you really shouldn't insert a finger unless you're a doctor -- which, come to think of it, Alfaro was; and Andoni Goikoetxea proudly displayed his boots in a glass case at home. Their moment of glory? The day they broke Diego Maradona's leg.
The thing is, those injuries were different. Those were injuries that were someone else's fault. Banega's wasn't; Banega's was all his own work. And Banega's not the first player in Spain to pick an injury that is, well, frankly a bit silly. He's not even the first Valencia player to do so. And he's not the first Valencia player to try to control something other than the ball ... with disastrous consequences. So let s introduce to you Spain's gallery of ill-fated -- and let's face it, pretty daft -- footballers:
1. Santi Cañizares. Back in 2002, goalkeeper Cañizares was preparing for the World Cup in Korea and Japan. The Spain No. 1 was presumably also preparing for a pretty top night out. Stepping out of the shower, he reached for a bottle of cologne. Sadly -- and pretty embarrassingly too for a goalkeeper -- the bottle slipped out of his hands and plummeted toward the floor. So, he put out his foot to stop it ... and it smashed across his instep, severing his tendons. The World Cup was only 14 days away and Spain's No. 1 gave way to Spain's No. 2, a certain Iker Casillas. Casillas was the country's penalty hero, "touched by God" as one columnist put it. Touched by God? Cañizares had been slapped round the face by Beelzebub.
He was a pretty unlucky type, was Cañi. He also had a habit of leaving things in the goal during games ... and sometimes those things were just that little bit too close to the fans behind. He had his favorite towel stolen from one goal -- he even offered a reward for it to be returned, which it was -- and during a game at Real Betis one Christmas, he left his water bottle in the net behind him. By the time the thirsty shot-stopper came to take a drink, the water in it had been replaced with something a little warmer. And a little yellowier too. Charming.
2. Enrique Romero. Did someone say charming? Deportivo de La Coruña's team came down the steps of its airplane at Pamplona airport, ready to face Osasuna, when the fullback Romero spotted a snake on the runway and turned all Fakir. He picked the snake up, only for it to turn and bite him, leaving his hand swelling up like a balloon and doctors rushing him to hospital, where he stayed in overnight meaning that he missed the match. It would have been embarrassing enough as it was, but teammate Jorge Andrade made it even worse for the poor fullback -- by taking the photos that proved that, far from some eight-foot long python or a boa constrictor with murderous intent, the animal that laid Romero out was little more than a worm.
3. Martin Palermo. Here's another seamless link: boas ... Argentine striker Palermo turned up in Spain with a reputation for being a bit, well, mad. Feather boas and women's clothes were just the half of it. They also said that he would score loads of goals. Which he didn't, really -- his time at Villarreal was not as glorious as everyone hoped. Not least because of the fact that one goal he did get was a late winner in the Copa del Rey against Levante. Palermo ran to the fans to celebrate, while they ran to the front of the stand to celebrate back. The concrete wall gave way and a combination of bricks, mortar and supporters came crashing down on the striker's leg. A broken ankle, tibia and fibula, kept him out of action for six months. Far from sympathy, most said it was his own stupid fault. No one blamed the real culprit: a soccer stadium wall that couldn't withstand a handful of soccer fans celebrating.
4. Carlos Busquets. Speaking of handfuls, these days Carlos Busquets is known for being Sergio's dad. In 1995, he was known for being Barcelona's goalkeeper. One day, he turned up for training with both hands burned and told his coach that he could not play that weekend after an accident with an iron. Johan Cruyff, the Barcelona coach at the time, was suspicious and responded: "somehow, I can't see Busquets ironing," to which Busquets noted: "I can't see Cruyff ironing either ... the difference is that I don't have a maid." He did though have a wife and then admitted that he hadn't been ironing at all -- she had. He had made the save of his life, diving full length to catch the iron that his wife had dropped, preventing it from hitting and burning his son Aitor. That was the official story, at least. It was definitely an iron. And definitely not because he had suffered an accident riding a motorbike -- something that the players were not allowed to do.
After all, you have to stop your players injuring themselves. Well, you have to try. Trouble is, they'll always find a way.