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Features

Newcastle's South American stars

Written by Dan King

Joelinton could follow in some illustrious footsteps after completing his club record move to Newcastle United.

Born in Aliança, which lies near Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco and has a population of just over 35,000, the 22-year-old began his career with Sport Club do Recife in his homeland before moving to 1899 Hoffenheim.

Joelinton Cassio Apolinário de Lira, to give him his full name, has played for Brazil at youth level and joins current players Miguel Almirón (Paraguay) and Federico Fernández (Argentina) at St. James' Park, while several other South American stars have worn the famous black and white shirt over the years. Here, we take a look at a few of them…

MIRANDINHA

Capped four times by his country, Mirandinha - or Francisco Ernandi Lima da Silva to give him his full name - joined Newcastle United from Palmeiras in the summer of 1987 and became the first Brazilian to play in English football.

He scored twice against Manchester United in one of his first games and went on to make 67 appearances, netting 24 times, while forming an unlikely yet enduring friendship with Paul Gascoigne.

And he was the subject of a fantastic chant from the Toon Army: "We've got Mirandinha, he's not from Argentina, he's from Brazil, he's ******* brill."

In an interview with NUFC TV in April 2016, he said: "Sometimes I meet Brazilians who play in England and they say 'Mira, thank you very much for opening the door.' It's very nice; any game between the English national team and Brazil, they remember my name."

Mirandinha also scored a winner at Anfield during his time at Newcastle, but the Magpies were relegated to the old second division at the end of the 1988/89 season and the Brazilian returned to Palmeiras.

"When I was here, everything was different," he admitted. "Now they have a massive stadium - but the fans never change."

A couple of other Brazilians - Caçapa and Fumaça - have played for Newcastle since, but they didn't quite make the same impact at St. James' Park...

NOLBERTO SOLANO

Another trailblazer: Solano was the first Peruvian to play in the Premier League after he joined Newcastle from Boca Juniors in 1998 - and by the end of his first campaign, he had become the first Peruvian to play in an FA Cup final, although sadly Ruud Gullit's side lost to Manchester United at Wembley.

Solano had already won championship titles in South America and played alongside Diego Maradona for Boca when he signed for United as a 23-year-old for less than £3m, and went on to help United qualify for the Champions League and reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup under Sir Bobby Robson. 

His delivery from the right led to many goals for the likes of Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy and Shola Ameobi, while his versatility saw him play at full-back on many occasions even though he was a technically-gifted winger by trade.

Sold to Aston Villa in January 2004, he returned less than two years later and in his two spells, he made 315 appearances for United and scored 48 goals. In his homeland, he has featured on postage stamps and telephone cards, and is now a coach for the Peru national side, who have qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. 

A keen trumpet player who often brought his instrument to the training ground, Solano has his own salsa band called the Geordie Latinos and remains a hero to Geordies - or 'Yordies' as he pronounces it - all over the world.

FABRICIO COLOCCINI

Born in Cordoba, Argentina, the curly-haired centre-back cost Newcastle £10m when he arrived from Deportivo La Coruna in the summer of 2008, but endured a difficult start to his Magpies career, pulling up few trees as the club were relegated at the end of his first campaign.

However, rather than depart with his tail between his legs, Coloccini helped United to win the Coca-Cola Championship title, winning a place in the divisional team of the year, and two years later was named in the PFA Premier League team of the season after helping Alan Pardew's team finish fifth in the top flight.

He became club captain and made a total of 274 appearances, scoring seven goals, during an eight-year stay before leaving for his boyhood club San Lorenzo.

Before joining Newcastle, he had won the FIFA World Youth Championships with Argentina in 2001 as well as representing his country at the 2004 Olympic games in Greece and the 2006 World Cup finals. Although his time on Tyneside ended with relegation in 2016, he deserves to be remembered as one of the club's finest modern-day defenders.

In an emotional open letter to the supporters, he wrote: "I always felt adopted by this club and by this beautiful city. But I would like to mention, in particular, the staff I have been honoured to work with over all of these years; the chefs, the physios, doctors, masseurs, kit men, domestic staff and cleaners, the security staff on reception, the media staff, the video analysts, the groundsmen, the laundry ladies, the secretaries and the other administrators.

"I'd like to make a special mention to those people, because from outside it's easy to just see the football match and the football player without realising the effort and the feeling, the emotion, care and the love that these people put into their work on a daily basis.

"These people adopted me and these people made it so much easier for me considering that I had a lot of my loved ones many miles away in my country. I will be forever grateful to them all."

FAUSTINO ASPRILLA

The controversial Colombian was unfairly accused by some pundits of being part of the reason Newcastle failed to win the Premier League title in 1995/96, but for most - if not all - Magpies supporters his name will always be synonymous with his famous Champions League hat-trick against Barcelona. 

He arrived at St. James' Park from Italian side Parma in February 1996, with Kevin Keegan's side top of the league by some distance, and although he sparkled on his debut against Middlesbrough - after enjoying a glass of wine earlier in the day because he wasn't expecting to play - and scored three goals that season, there was a school of thought that he'd unsettled a winning team as Manchester United ended up overtaking the Magpies.

But, in an interview with Newcastle United's now-defunct official monthly magazine in April 2009, Asprilla explained: "It is true that there was a change, and it is true that there was a difference in February of 12 points, but the games that I played, I think most of them were good rather than bad."

The following season, in a UEFA Cup tie against Metz, he celebrated a goal by racing over to the supporters, taking off his black and white shirt and hoisting it on the corner flag. "It was a celebration of the team," he said. "It was what it represents, this club. It was a privilege to play for them. It was my way of saying 'nothing is more important than Newcastle United.'"

Then, on 17th September, 1997, came that never-to-be-forgotten treble against Barcelona, which gave Newcastle a 3-2 win. "I had been playing in Colombia for my country and I was supposed to come back the next day... but instead I came back just before the game," he recalled in that magazine interview.

"Kenny Dalglish put me on a private flight. I was getting quite big-headed, thinking I must be a very important person for Newcastle to put me on a private plane, but Kenny Dalglish said to me: 'this flight has not been paid for. You have to pay it - it's a fine.'

"When the game finished, Kenny Dalglish came and said 'don't worry about the flight. Newcastle are going to pay for it!".

GEORGE AND TED ROBLEDO

Born in Iquique, Chile, George Oliver Robledo and Edward Oliver Robledo were brought up by their English mother in Yorkshire after the family emigrated from South America following the Chilean revolution in 1932. Both players went on to sign for Barnsley before arriving at Newcastle in a £3,500 joint-deal in January 1949.

George partnered Jackie Milburn up front, finishing as Division One's leading goalscorer in 1951-52 and scoring a late winner in the 1952 FA Cup final, while Ted was also a valuable member of that cup-winning team, playing in the final. He made a total of 47 appearances without scoring, while George netted 91 goals in 166 appearances and was shortlisted for Newcastle United's Greatest XI as part of the club's recent 125 year anniversary celebrations. 

Both represented the Chile national team during the 1950s and they headed back to the place of their birth with another joint-deal to Colo-Colo in 1953. George went on to form part of the organising committee for the World Cup in Chile in 1962 before becoming head of sport at St. Peter's School in Vina Del Mar, where he resided until his death in 1989.

Ted, meanwhile, worked in the oil industry after retirement. In 1970, he was assumed dead after being reported as missing overboard a tanker, the Al Sahn, in the Persian Gulf. Following an investigation by Interpol, the West German captain of the boat was arrested and charged with murder after it was claimed a fight took place. However, the captain was acquitted and no trace of Robledo's body was ever found. 

JONAS GUTIERREZ

Nicknamed 'Spiderman' after celebrating a goal for former club Real Mallorca by pulling a mask out of his shorts and firing imaginary webs into the crowd, this Argentine winger proved to be a real life superhero.

Newcastle fans had to wait a while to see the mask for themselves - he finally revealed it after scoring his second goal for the club in a 6-1 win against Barnsley in March 2010 - but he had already been one of the few bright spots despite his first season ending in relegation and, like compatriot Coloccini, he stayed to help United clinch the Coca-Cola Championship title a year later.

Adept at taking the ball forwards with pace to relieve pressure on his team-mates, his performances in the second tier earned him a place in Diego Maradona's squad alongside the likes of Lionel Messi for the 2010 World Cup finals, and he played a key role as the Magpies finished fifth in the Premier League in 2011/12.

In October 2013, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer but fought back to make his return as a substitute against Manchester United in March 2015. As he entered the field to a standing ovation at St. James' Park, captain Coloccini handed him the armband.

Then, on the final day of the 2015/16 season, with Newcastle needing three points against West Ham to guarantee their top-flight status, he scored with one of his final touches in a black and white shirt.

Other South Americans to have represented the club over the years include Christian Bassedas, Daniel Cordone (both Argentina), Clarence Acuña (Chile), Diego Gavilán (Paraguay) and Ignacio González (Uruguay), while another Argentine, Facundo Ferreyra, spent a season at St. James' between 2014/15 but failed to make a first-team appearance.

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