Walter Adrián Luján Samuel (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈwalter saˈmwel]; born Walter Adrián Luján; 23 March 1978) is a retired Argentine professional footballer. Gifted with natural power and good defensive skills, Samuel has been regarded as one of the best centre-backs of his generation, and as one of football's toughest defenders, with former international teammate and Inter captain Javier Zanetti referring to him as the "hardest player" he has played with.
Samuel began his club career with domestic club Newell's Old Boys in 1996, later moving to Boca Juniors the following year. This was soon followed by a move to Europe in 2000, and spells with Italian club Roma, and Spanish club Real Madrid. In 2005, he returned to Italy, joining Inter, where he remained for nine seasons, winning five consecutive Serie A titles; he played a key role in the club's treble success in the 2009–10 season, partnering with Lúcio in defence under José Mourinho. At international level, he has accumulated over 50 caps for the Argentine national team, representing his country at two FIFA World Cups, the 1999 Copa América, and the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, where he won a runners-up medal.
Early life and personal life
Samuel was born Walter Adrián Luján, but adopted the family name of his stepfather, "Samuel" as a teenager. He has a daughter and two sons with his wife Cecilia.
Samuel started playing professionally in 1996 in Argentina for Newell's Old Boys, and a year later moved to Boca Juniors, where he played 103 matches and scored five goals in all competitions until 2000. In that year, Roma bought his contract for 40.265 billion Italian lire (about €20 million). He gained fame as one of the best defenders in the Italian league and gained a nickname to match, winning the Serie A title with Roma in 2001. His quality attracted interest from Spanish team Real Madrid.
Real Madrid paid €25 million for his transfer in 2004. Samuel failed to make an impact at Madrid and was not the leader at the back that Real so desperately needed. He was one of the three non-EU players of the team, along with Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos; they all obtained Spanish passports, however, in 2005.
In August 2005, he returned to the Serie A with a transfer to Internazionale on a four-year contract for reported €16 million fee.
In the Derby della Madonnina on 23 December 2007, he hurt himself whilst marking the Brazilian international Kaká, and a couple weeks later, he had reconstructive surgery on his medial collateral ligament. He was expected to be out until the end of the 2007–08 season. In actuality, he started training with the first team again in October of the 2008–09 season and promptly earned a first team place back under manager José Mourinho. Under Mourinho Samuel was a fixture in Inter's first team, alongside his defensive partner Lúcio, as they won the Serie A title, the Coppa Italia, and the UEFA Champions League in the 2009–10 season, completing a historic treble. Samuel was praised for his defensive performances against Barcelona and Bayern Munich on Inter's road to the Champions League title. Samuel suffered a severe knee injury in the 7 November 2010 fixture against Brescia.
After 9 seasons with Inter, on July 23, 2014, Samuel signed a one-year contract with Basel in the Swiss Super League. He made his first team league debut on 31 August 2014 in the 3–1 home win against the Young Boys. The Basel 2014–15 Super League season was a very successful one. They won the championship for the sixth time in a row and reached the final of the 2014–15 Swiss Cup. But for the third season in a row, they finished as runners-up, losing 0–3 to FC Sion in the final. Basel entered the Champions League in the group stage and reached the knockout phase as on 9 December 2014 they managed a 1–1 draw in Anfield against Liverpool. But then Basel then lost to Porto in the Round of 16. Basel played a total of 65 matches (36 Swiss League fixtures, 6 Swiss Cup, 8 Champions League and 15 test matches). Under trainer Paulo Sousa Samuel totaled 26 appearances, 13 League, 1 Cup, 4 Champions League, as well 8 in test games. He scored 2 goals in these matches.
In June 2015, Samuel prolonged his contract with Basel for another year; in October, however, he communicated his intention to retire at the end of the 2015–16 season, due to physical difficulties. He made his 100th UEFA club competition appearance playing for them in the closing match of the 2015–16 UEFA Europa League group stage during the 1–0 away win in the INEA Stadion against Lech Poznań on 10 December 2015.
Under trainer Urs Fischer Samuel won the Swiss Super League championship wit Basel at the end of the 2015–16 Super League season for the second time. For the club it was the seventh title in a row and their 19th championship title in total. Samuel played the final match of his career in a 1–0 home defeat against Grasshoppers, on 25 May 2016, at the age of 38.
Samuel has played 56 matches for Argentina between 1999 and 2010, scoring five goals. He played for his country in the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as in the 1999 Copa América, and in the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, in which Argentina won a runners-up medal.
Style of play
Regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation, Samuel was a large, quick, powerful, and aggressive centreback, who excelled in the air, both defensively, and as a goal threat on set pieces. His defensive skills, which included an excellent positional sense, tough, tight marking, and hard tackling, made him extremely effective at anticipating opponents. His strong, uncompromising style of play earnt him the nickname Il Muro ("The Wall"). Despite his ability as a defender, his career was also marked by several injuries that affected his fitness.
- As of 25 May 2016.
|Newell's Old Boys|
|Argentina national team|
- Boca Juniors
- Primera División: 1998 Apertura, 1999 Clausura
- Copa Libertadores: 2000
- Serie A: 2000–01
- Supercoppa Italiana: 2001
- Serie A: 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2009–10
- Coppa Italia: 2005–06, 2009–10, 2010–11
- Supercoppa Italiana: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010
- UEFA Champions League: 2009–10
- FIFA Club World Cup: 2010
- FC Basel
- Swiss Super League: 2014–15, 2015–16
- Swiss Cup runner up: 2014–15
- Argentina U-20
- FIFA U-20 World Cup: 1997
- FIFA Confederations Cup (Runner-up): 2005
- Serie A Defender of the Year: 2010
- South American Team of the Year: 1999
- ESM Team of the Year: 2001–02, 2003–04
- FIFA FIFPro World XI Nominee: 2005, 2009, 2010
- ^ "Walter Samuel – UEFA.com". Union of European Football Associations. 24 January 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- "WALTER ADRIAN SAMUEL – CAREER AND HONOURS". Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "INTER TRIUMPH AT AIC 2010 'FOOTBALL OSCARS'". 25 January 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
- "South American Team of the Year". 16 January 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
- Karel Stokkermans (14 March 2007). "ESM XI". RSSSF. Retrieved 29 November 2015.