Tejera, nomadic 'golden child' at the centre of a storm

Marcelo Tejera is a creative midfielder who was good enough to play for Uruguay but not for Southampton
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The Independent Online

Marcelo Tejera, born in 1973, was known as "The Golden Child" in his youth, becoming a brief fixture in the Uruguay international side in his early 20s, in 1995 and 1996, when he made his name as a creative midfielder, capable of moments of brilliant skill. By 2005, his nomadic career had included spells at Defensor Sporting in his home country, Cagliari in Italy, Boca Juniors in Argentina, Logroñés in Spain, Tecos in Mexico, and Peñarol. He was capped again in summer 2005 after an international absence of 10 years, shortly before his move to Southampton.

After the agent Chris McMenemy, the son of the former Southampton manager, Lawrie, had recommended Tejera to Harry Redknapp, the then Southampton manager, Redknapp invited Tejera for a trial period of "a few days" at Southampton. "The kid was a good midfielder, ability like you've never seen," Redknapp told The Independent, adding that he wanted to sign him and left all negotiations to Lowe. Redknapp says he "wouldn't have a clue what they [Southampton] paid for him [Tejera]".

Redknapp was pleased with Tejera's trial but it was not good enough to get him a single minute in the first team. "He scored a couple of terrific goals for the reserves but unfortunately getting him fit was a problem," Redknapp said. "Then I left [five months after signing Tejera], and George Burley didn't fancy him, and they got rid of him."

The Independent contacted a variety of agents, representatives and friends of Tejera who helped to set up and complete the move. They all deny any wrongdoing, or receiving any money for their work.

Pablo Forlan, who accompanied Tejera to talks with the club and acted as translator, said he had helped Tejera "as a friend". Asked the direct question: "Did you tell Southampton that a loan fee was payable?", he replied: "I said what Tejera told me."

Forlan says he received no money for his help. His father, Pablo Snr, a former Peñarol and Uruguay player, conceded that he, too, had helped, but added: "It had nothing to do with us. Peñarol got the money." Tejera says he believed the payment of a loan fee to Penarol was necessary for his release.

Another friend of Tejera, Clive Jagger, was also involved in Tejera's move to England, though not the deal, he says. Jagger is an English businessman who now lives in Spain. He said he accompanied Tejera when he first travelled to England for a trial in August last year. Jagger told The Independent that he is a "close friend of Marcelo and I'm his business partner in various ventures in Uruguay, but nothing to do with football." He said that he and Pablo Forlan Jnr "both gave Marcelo a hand with his stuff. Marcelo negotiated the deal himself. I just helped him out with his finances... it was one of the cleanest deals in football." Jagger says he received no money for helping his friend.

Neither of the Forlans nor Jagger are licensed agents. Only one agent had any role, and that was Chris McMenemy. He is based in Spain and originally recommended the player to Redkanpp after seeing Tejera in a friendly last summer. Redknapp had asked McMenemy to keep an eye open for potential players. Redknapp, who says he knows nothing about the detail of the negotiations, advised The Independent to speak to McMenemy, who himself said he was hardly involved beyond the first phone call because "it wasn't really my deal". He says he did not ask for or receive any fee.

Southampton's concerns arose because of the way Tejera and Forlan asked for a higher loan fee and wages but accepted much lower figures. Southampton were initially told that Peñarol wanted a £300,000 loan fee for one season, and that the player wanted wages of £5,000 a week, plus £1,000 per game, plus a £100,000 bonus if he played 20 times for the first team, plus relocation costs of £8,000. Southampton's then chairman, Rupert Lowe, took notes of the negotiations.

Southampton, who were unsure of the player's credentials, actually offered a loan fee of £100,000 and wages of £3,000 a week, plus a £50,000 bonus for 20 games, and relocation costs of £8,000. Lowe was surprised this offer was accepted, but it was, quickly, and the deal went ahead because the transfer window was about to close. Southampton felt that as the money was sent through the proper channels, via the Football Association to Peñarol, the deal was above board.

Tejera did not make a single appearance, either from the start or from the bench, in Southampton's first team. The club were so disenchanted with him that after Redknapp left Southampton to return to Portsmouth last December, Tejera was asked to leave and his contract was paid off.

As a free agent, he returned to Uruguay and played briefly again for Defensor. This summer he joined Peñarol's main rivals, Nacional.