Profiles - De Guzman

Squad number 08/09:
6                                                                               Date of Birth: 25 March 1981
Place of Birth: Toronto
Nationality: Canada (international)
Contract: 2005 - 2009
Transfer: Free Transfer (2005, from Hannover'96)
Career: Deportivo (2005-2009), Hannover'96 (2002-2005), 1.FC Saarbrucken (2000-2002), Olympique Marseille (1997-2000)
Buy-out Clause: ?
Height: 169 cm
Weight: 68 kg
Position: Defensive Midfielder (central)

In 2005 legendary midfielder Mauro Silva (37) retired at Deportivo from professional football. That same summer midfielder Julian de Guzm??n (aged 24) was signed on a free transfer, hence the first comparison between the two players. Although there were doubts about his qualities at first, and he had difficulties getting into the team, the second part of the season 2006/2007 was his breakthrough in Spain as well as internationally. In June 2007 he was voted as Most Valuable Player of the CONCACAF Gold Cup’07 tournament and during the season 2007/2008 he became Deportivo’s undisputed starter in midfield. He even was voted 2007/2008 Player of the Year by and supporters should have no worries about Deportivo’s midfield this season.

Coming from Canada, Juli??n de Guzm??n quickly realized that to become a quality player he needed to move away from Toronto to Europe. Being the eldest son of family with mother coming from Jamaica and father from the Filipinas, sport played an important part at home. His mother was an athlete and his father practised all kind of sports and is a huge fan of local basketball club Toronto Raptors. It’s not surprising that short De Guzm??n (168 cm) didn’t have a future in that sport and his father made him, and his younger brother Jonathan, joining local football club North Scarborough. Aged sixteen in 1997, he was discovered by French football club Olympique Marseille (?a friend of mine offered me a two-week trial?). After having played at Olympique reserves for three years (?Sometimes I trained with the first team, with Luccin, Blanc, Makelele?), in 2000 he accepted the challenge to play in the German second division at 1.FC Saarbr??cken (?I always was the smallest on the pitch, and I became more aggressive there?). That same year his brother Jonathan, aged barely twelve, joined him in Europe and started playing in the youth system of Feyenoord Rotterdam.

In 2002, Juli??n De Guzm??n made another step and signed at Bundesliga club Hannover’96. The club was recently promoted to the highest level and had hired Richard Moar as their sports director. Moar was a player of Deportivo in the 1970s and 1980s and later a personal advisor of president Lendoiro. It was Moar who achieved loan deals with several players of Deportivo (Jaime, Jos? Manuel and Fernando), who became colleagues of De Guzm??n. ?With Jaime I became good friends?, De Guzm??n said when he signed at Deportivo later. Meanwhile, Fernando described him as a ?quiet guy. But he was still young and has a big future ahead in Spain. He gave all during training sessions?.

His coach at Hannover, Ewald Lienen, defined him as a ?dynamic and polyvalent defensive midfielder. But he cannot be compared to Mauro Silva, because he became a world champion and not only has been a reference at Deportivo. De Guzm??n is smaller but great in recuperating balls, and he has some incredible moves. He’s more comparable to Makelele (a personal favourite of De Guzm??n), although one cannot expect of him to play very offensively or to organize the game. But I am convinced he’ll triumph at Deportivo because he has been one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga?. That final observation didn’t go unnoticed. The retirement of Mauro Silva was getting close when in January, 2005 news reports appeared about Deportivo being interested in signing him. One month later the deal was done and De Guzm??n could arrive on a free transfer as his contract ran out that summer. De Guzm??n's departure was forced when Hannover wanted an answer before the Christmas break on a contract extension. Other clubs seriously interested were Feyenoord Rotterdam (where his brother Jonathan plays) and Tottenham Hotspur.

When arriving in La Coru?a, Moar described him as having ?a tremendous illusion. He’s a winner and on Sundays he performs like during training sessions. And for him it doesn’t matter playing against smaller of bigger teams. Despite being small he’s strong and has good technical capacities, and he’s very quick. He can play at several positions but his speciality is playing in the centre, like Duscher and Sergio?. New coach Joaquin Caparr??s of Deportivo also appreciated his skills and on 21 September 2005 he made his debut in the Primera Divisi??n during a 1-1 home draw with Betis Sevilla. With it he became the first Canadian to play at the highest level in Spain. His first starting place he acquired some days later at Zaragoza and until the end of November he added six other starting positions to his name including home matches against FC Barcelona (3-3) and Real Madrid (3-1). He got Riazor cheering during last-mentioned match when his low drive gave Deportivo a 1-0 lead.

But De Guzm??n’s problem that season would simply be that Caparr??s preferred the duo Duscher-Sergio in the centre midfield. Between the end of November and early April, De Guzm??n started just four other Liga matches and entered as a substitute in another four. But at the end of the season 2005/2006 he started six of Depor’s final seven Liga matches. The one he missed had to do with his sending-off during the match at C??diz (1-1) with twenty minutes remaining. In total he played 1476 minutes Liga minutes (43% of a possible total) during the season 2005/2006, which wasn’t bad at all.

However, De Guzm??n wanted more but his career experienced a set-back when at the start of the season 2006/2007 coach Caparr??s again relied on Sergio, new signing Juan Rodr?guez and defender Coloccini for the centre midfield positions. With Duscher out of favour, De Guzm??n now had to cope with other competition. The situation became urgent when in December 2006 he still hadn’t played a single minute in the Liga. Only on 16 December 2006 he made his first appearance during the home defeat against Athletic de Bilbao (0-2). One week later Deportivo were fifteenth in Spain at just a few spots of the relegation zone. Something had to happen. Looking back at that time, De Guzm??n said: "I came into the season 2006/2007 thinking I'd get a much better chance of being a starter. But in the first half of the season I didn't play at all and I was definitely disappointed with that, so I was looking elsewhere to play. I didn't want to leave Spain at all, but if it came down to it I would definitely do it if it meant I could play, because I am too young to be sitting on the bench." De Guzm??n was linked with moves to Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic in England, as well Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and a possible return to Germany. "During the winter break there were a couple of offers to go to the Premiership and I was kind of leaning towards that, especially because of not playing in the first half of the season", he confirmed.

But De Guzm??n didn’t go and during the next two months Deportivo experienced an impressive revival. The team stayed alive in the Copa del Rey and experienced an 8-match unbeaten run in the Liga which took them four spots up in the table and relatively safe from the dangerous spots. The turning point for De Guzm??n at Depor came when he was included in the starting line-up for the home match against Real Madrid back in January, the team's opening fixture of 2007. De Guzm??n started these matches of Depor’s fine run and was an important part of the team not leaking a goal for 451 minutes in a row. However, Deportivo couldn’t continue this run and finished the season anonymously. Still, De Guzm??n had made name and was one of the few high lights during the final months of the campaign. De Guzm??n himself explained: "The home game against Madrid was when it all changed. It was the coach's last chance. If we would have lost that game he would have been fired so he played his last cards in that game, including me, and came out with the win and we played well?. When Caparr??s was asked about his best players in the team, he mentioned Jorge Andrade, Lopo, Arizmendi and… De Guzm??n.

In the summer of 2007, De Guzm??n was satisfied with his role in the squad and admitted that his love for life in Spain has been rekindled in the last few months. "It's a dream coming true to be out here, not just the football alone but the culture, the lifestyle ... it's amazing. Also, it is a dream coming true to play at the Bernab?u and something like that will take a while to settle in. The highlight for me is simply being here, being the first Canadian, representing my people and my country. I never thought I would have the chance to play in what for me is the top league in the world, and here I am. ... I'm very thankful and honoured to be in this position. Now I'd prefer to stay in Spain and am very happy here. And as long as I get to play that is all that matters. If there is an opportunity to stay longer than the two years which I have remaining (on his contract), then I would definitely do it," De Guzm??n said. "I'm very happy here and it's just unfortunate the team is not really living up to its expectations from previous years." About living in the city of La Coru?a, De Guzm??n mentioned that "we (the players) do get a lot of respect up there. Everybody knows who you are but they give you your space and are very friendly. It's a small city, there's a lot of countryside up there, it’s near the coast and is very beautiful. In the winter it rains a lot but for me it's not a problem because when I was living in Germany, the winters were pretty brutal. We get a lot rain in the winter but apart from that the weather is incredible?.

De Guzm??n’s highlight of his career, until then, was playing the CONCACAF Gold Cup’07 tournament (The Gold Cup is the confederation championship for teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean) in the United States which started on 6 June 2007. In January 2002 he made his debut for the Canadian national team. Five years later he scored both of Canada's goals in a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in Canada's opening game in Miami. Canada finished as leaders of Group A, eliminated Guatemala in the Quarter Finals but didn’t reach the final because of a 1-2 defeat against the United States. Nevertheless, De Guzm??n was selected by the CONCACAF Technical Study Group for the All-Tournament Team and won the overall tournament Most Valuable Player award. De Guzm??n himself didn’t expect winning that trophy. "To be honest it surprised me, I thought Landon Donovan of the United States was going to win the award since they won the championship game. And it would have been better to touch the Gold Cup than to win the MVP award. But I'm glad I was able to put Canada on the map in winning the award. All the thanks really goes to my team-mates and especially Canada's fans, I would like to dedicate the award to them?.

New coach Lotina also put faith in De Guzm??n, but he confirmed that he wanted to add another defensive midfielder to the squad. ?I want to add someone who’s capable to control the aerial game. But we’ll try with Juan Rodr?guez there and possibly Antonio Tom??s?. Lotina described De Guzm??n as ?a very agile player and he can do interesting things with the ball. He isn’t the typical organize, but he’s able to pass well. He’s a very interesting player?. De Guzm??n started in the 2007 Teresa Herrera tournament against Atalanta Bergamo, next to Sergio, and played a good match. In the final against Madrid, Lotina gave the others a chance and in this case it was a midfield with Juan Rodr?guez and Verd??. De Guzm??n replaced Guardado in the middle of the second half and some of his individual actions were enjoyed by the Riazor crowd. Lotina categorized De Guzm??n and Juan Rodr?guez as his ?defensive midfielders? and mentioned Verd?? and Sergio as having ?more freedom?. ?And if they need assistance, Aythami can play there too. I believe that we have covered midfield fine?.
It wasn’t sure though that, against Almer?a on the first day of the season 2007/2008, De Guzm??n would win the spot next to Sergio as Juan Rodr?guez had been doing very well. But eventually De Guzm??n and Sergio formed Deportivo’s centre midfield against the new boys. It became a disaster. They were completely overrun and appeared non-existent. As a consequence, the wings were flooded too and the attackers isolated. Deportivo lost 0-3 and appeared helpless. De Guzm??n was the one to be sacrificed. He lined up all Sergio, Verd?? and Juan Rodr?guez at Valladolid (a 2-2 draw) and the 1-0 win against Betis Sevilla confirmed that Lotina’s repetition of this line-up was a good choice. The team had fought at Valladolid and played a very good game in Riazor against the Andalucians. De Guzm??n had some minutes as a substitute in both matches. In the mean time he played with Canada in his hometown Toronto, which could have confirmed his place on the bench at Deportivo. Then it went from bad to worse. De Guzm??n was in Deportivo’s squad for the matches against Getafe and Recreativo, but didn’t play a single minute. His numbers after five matches now looked bleach with just one starting position. But the overall performance of Deportivo in most of these matches causes his return for the match at Espanyol. Lotina revolutionized the team after the hopeless 0-2 home defeat against Recreativo when Juan Rodr?guez and Sergio possibly played even worse than De Guzm??n and Sergio had done against Almer?a.