Names in the news: Diego Godin

Diego Godin is mobbed by his Atletico Madrid teammates after scoring against Barcelona. (Andres Kudacki/AP)

Name: Diego Godin
Born: Feb. 16, 1986, in Rosario, Uruguay
Position: Defender
Pro club: Atletico Madrid

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Why is he in the news?

Atletico Madrid travelled to the Camp Nou last Saturday needing only a draw on the final day of the season against FC Barcelona to secure the La Liga title. A win by Barca would have saw the Catalans leapfrog Atletico in the standings and claim the crown.

And that’s exactly what looked like was going to happen after Atletico lost top scorer Diego Costa and influential midfielder Arda Turan to injuries in the first half, and Alexis Sanchez gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute.

But Atletico regrouped at halftime and knotted the score in the 49th minute when an unmarked Godin found space inside the Barcelona penalty area and delivered a clinical and powerful header into the back of the net off a corner kick. Atletico saw the game out to a 1-1 draw, and Atletico won La Liga for the first time since 1996.

He’s special because

Aside from his heroics at the Camp Nou, Godin served as the anchor of a miserly Atletico defence that ranks among the very best in European club soccer this season—Los Colchoneros conceded just 26 goals in La Liga, and six in the Champions League. Godin is one of the toughest and most physical centre backs in the world, but he’s also an astute defensive organizer who reads the game very well.

Club career

Godin began his professional career in the lower leagues of Uruguay with Montevideo-based Club Atlético Cerro as a 17-year old in 2003. Three years later he transferred to Nacional, one of the biggest teams in Uruguay, where he became captain. Like a lot of emerging young players in Uruguay, he ended up crossing the pond to Europe, signing with Villarreal in 2007. He helped the Yellow Submarine earn second place in 2007-08—the club’s highest finish in La Liga.

Godin continued to thrive at Villarreal but it became obvious his talents needed a bigger stage to fully shine. He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2010 following a €8 million transfer and became a key player for Los Rojiblancos, helping them win a pair of UEFA Super Cups, the UEFA Europa League and the Copa Del Rey before finally breaking through to win the Spanish league title this season.

International career

Godin made his debut for Uruguay in a friendly against Mexico as a 19-year-old while still at Nacional. He went on to represent his country at the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela where Uruguay lost to Mexico in the third-place match after falling to Brazil in a shootout in the semifinals.

But that disappointment was forgotten after Godin and Uruguay reached the semifinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Godin made six starts for La Celeste, including the semifnal loss to the Netherlands. Uruguay ended up finishing fourth in the tournament.

Godin was a member of the Uruguay squad that won the 2011 Copa America in Argentina. But unlike at the World Cup where he was a starter, Godin sat on the bench for the majority of the competition, and made only one appearance—as a substitute in the 88th minute in the final against Paraguay, which Uruguay won 3-0. In total, Godin has three goals in 76 appearances for the national team.

His most famous moment

There’s only one choice—His equalizer against Barcelona that sealed the La Liga title for Atletico Madrid.

Here’s an interesting fact

Godin admitted to a Uruguayan radio station that he instructed Atletico teammate Miranda to target Lionel Messi’s injured thigh in the first leg of the 2013 Spanish Supercopa. Messi was taken off at halftime after suffering a bruise to his left thigh. Godin motioned to Miranda to kick Messi in the back of the thigh after he first felt the problem. “These are football gestures and those who play know what they mean,” Godin said. “I see that he is touching that part of his leg. I made gestures to my teammates so that they know to put pressure on.”

He said it

“We have fought all year and the work we have done is amazing. To last 38 games against two great teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona is incredibly difficult.”

What they’re saying about him

“Atletico Madrid has the best defensive record in both La Liga and the Champions League. At the core is Diego Godin, a man after his coach Diego Simeone’s own heart.” Pete Jenson, correspondent for English newspaper The Independent newspaper.

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