Born: 31 January 1981, Quilmes, Argentina
Age in 2005: 24
Premier League Clubs: Sunderland (2000-2006), Middlesbrough (2006-2013)
Position: Centre mid/Left wing-back
After watching the young Argentinian impress in a match against England U21, Sunderland manager Peter Reid followed Julio Arca around until he eventually finally signed him for £3.5m in 2000.
Reid’s tactical prowess knows no bounds and in much the same way Pep Guardiola turned Fabian Delph from battling defensive midfielder into a cultured full-back, Reid envisaged something similarly outlandish for his new signing: he would convert the young left back into a left wing-back.
A prolific season followed for the new-look Arca. Three goals in 27 appearances saw him named in nobody’s team of the season as he looked to kick on in 2001/02. This, unfortunately, was not to be the case. A series of injuries prevented him regaining the scintillatingly mediocre form of his previous year. Peter Reid was sacked and the Black Cats were relegated the next season.
(Above: Julio doing the Jack Grealish low socks before it was cool)
Despite this, Arca has rarely uttered a negative word about Peter Reid. In one interview, presumably after hearing his former manager pronounce ‘Hans-Jürgen Stefan Schwarz’ flawlessly, Julio said: "He was one of the best managers of the last twenty years. He could cope with big names."
But it was in the 2004/05 season - under the stewardship of Guru Mick McCarthy - that Arca truly started proving himself in the English game. Mick performed the reverse-Delph on young Julio, shifting him from left-back into central midfield. In his new position, the Argentinian scored nine goals in 40 Championship appearances, shielding a defence made up of Steven Caldwell and Gary Breen, who were both football players.
Arca’s outstanding 2004/05 was summed up perfectly when triumphant manager Mick McCarthy said: "He was very good."
Sunderland’s return to the top flight lasted all of one season; as they fell back to the Championship. Middlesbrough offered Julio a Premier League lifeline.
(Above: Ivan Campo and Arca lock horns in front of a captivated Stadium of Light.)
A pre-waistcoated Gareth Southgate made Arca his very first signing at the Riverside and his arrival allowed the departure of fellow Prem Classic Franck Queudrue. With this, ‘Man-mArca’ was ready to make his debut the following week. It was to be a crushing start to the season for Southgate’s new man though, who broke his foot on the brink of half time and missed the next six weeks. This impressive start would see him named club captain in two years time.
But it was after his departure from Middlesbrough that Arca proved his credentials as an adopted North-Eastern stalwart. During half-time of the Tyne-Wear derby of 2014/15, the Argentinian was filmed starting the famous - but not very inventive - chant of ‘Shearer is a w*nker’. Much more offensive, though, is the high-collared, indie-folk-lover’s knitted white cardigan he felt was suitable to wear at the football. Outrageous, even if it does look incredibly warm.
(Above: Julio sliding skilfully between Carlton Cole and the ball.)
Sir Alex Ferguson coveted Julio Arca when he first joined Peter Reid’s Sunderland, and that is only testament to the undoubted talents he possessed.
Though he may never have totally fulfilled his potential, fans of Sunderland and Middlesbrough would point to his 317 combined club appearances in protest. His name was common in nearly every Shoot Out book between 2000 and 2013; Julio Arca is a Premier League Classic.
Where is he now?
Announced his retirement from football in May 2018 after lifting the FA Vase with South Shields. That’s eighteen years he has survived in North East England.
What did he say?
“The year we won promotion under Mick McCarthy was brilliant. It was just a shame that we were so bad in the Premier League the next year and were relegated again.” (Sunderland Chronicle)