As famous for his hedonism and histrionics as his feats on a football pitch, tonight Banega plays his final match for Sevilla, the club where he finally settled
Sometimes, when genius is effortless, it can come across as a little lazy. After all, if you have a talent capable of leaving others jealous, the only thing more antagonistic is wasting it. The trouble is, Ever Banega never really cared for others’ opinions. He never clung to praise or got stung by criticism. He waltzed through Spain indignant or oblivious, with a skill most could only envy and an attitude even more deplored.
Perhaps, the Argentine’s histrionics and hedonism will always be more famous than his feats on a football pitch – those, too, aren’t in short supply. Banega had been deified and disgraced while still a teenager, sought after and expelled as a young adult, a talent that was addictive but, before long, always turned toxic. Ostracised by Valencia and Atletico, returned to Argentina, redeemed in Seville and forgotten in Italy. Step into Banega’s world, a decade spent drifting in graceful chaos through football’s highest echelons, and there is respect and resentment, confusion and more than a little mystery.
In truth, though, it’s a little simpler than that. Banega grew “practically from the mud” in Buenos Aires, was plucked from rugged anonymity, and graciously soaked up all the world’s riches until he was saturated and trampled. He arrived in Valencia in 2008 as a teenager for around £16m – an astronomic fee at the time – and soon the trail of profligacy began: a streak of nightclub visits, a fridge filled with beer, a masturbation scandal, a wrecked hotel room, a DUI and, most infamously, a broken leg inflicted by his own car at a petrol station. When rising from virtually nothing, the difference is everything. And, without proper guidance, there are few limits in-between.
Coaches feared Banega would drink or simply squander his skill away. Valencia even hired a live-in chef in an attempt to deter his fast food diet. It was never a question of whether he had the necessary ability – glimpses of his mercurial talent sparking belief again and again – but why he seemed so intent on only fulfilling it in half-measures. Even now – almost 500 appearances, 65 international caps, two Europa League’s, a Copa Libertadores and an Olympic gold medal later – some would still say he has. Continue reading