When he was at Blackburn Rovers he was the talking point behind one of my favourite headlines ever. He scored a hat-trick against Wigan Athletic 10 days before Christmas in 2007 and the inevitable plays on his middle name and that jolly red-clad fellow we know so well for chimney descending, sleigh riding and reindeer whispering were everywhere.
He was a machine at Blackburn; scoring 29 goals and creating 10 in his 70 games for the Lancashire club under Mark Hughes. He followed Hughes to Manchester City in 2009 but problems with knee injuries that had plagued the early part of his career with Bayern Munich got in the way of any substantial progress. He scored just four goals in 24 appearances for City.
He had a loan spell back at Blackburn which was equally unsuccessful in front of goal; rendering zero goals in 11 appearances.
Last year he signed for Real Betis in a season-long loan deal where he became a fan favourite. While not a regular goal-scorer his performances endeared him to the Verdiblancos faithful as they finished 13th in the league under Pepe Mel. He stated his desire to remain at the club after declaring his love for the fans and club.
For whatever reason his dream move did not materialise and he returned to Manchester City for pre-season this summer. He actually had a decent pre-season for the club and attracted interest from far and wide with Cruzeiro, Olimpia, Colon, Newell’s Old Boys, Werder Bremen, QPR and Middlesbrough all making enquiries.
Instead he returned to Spain where he joined Malaga as they struggled to sign new players amid financial turmoil. Since then he has confirmed he won’t be returning to England when his contract expires at the end of the current season but is his form in La Liga catching they eye of potential suitors?
Well largely he has been used as a substitute at the club and scored just two goals in 17 appearances overall. His goals came against Atletico Madrid and Valencia which could give him some comfort considering the quality of his slayed opposition. Overall he has certainly done himself no harm with solid performances and establishing himself as an important squad player in a team that is performing extremely well in both Europe and domestically.
He still has a good relationship with Roberto Mancini and clearly was never going to be part of plans to help City to where they are now considering his injury record. City fans will certainly not begrudge the Paraguayan a decent second half of the season to continue to attract interest. He admits he would prefer to remain in Spain or move back to South America at the end of the season; and while in recent years injuries have been the tale of Roque’s tape he will always be remembered for that incredible 2007-08 season at Blackburn Rovers.
What do you make of Roque Santa Cruz’s potential exit from English football?