El Loco Abreu

Rarely has a nickname been so closely related to a football player to the point that most people don't know his real name. Rarely does a footballer accumulate so many anecdotes for having gone through a huge number of countries and clubs around the world. Rarely the quality of a footballer is somewhat put to second place by the personality and the stories that surround him.

Very few times in the history of football you can find a player like Sebastián "El Loco" Abreu and that is why it is worth writing an article about him.

His beginnings

Washington Sebastián Abreu Gallo, was born on October 17, 1976, in the city of Minas, capital of the Lavalleja department of Uruguay, where he grew up with the nickname "El Negro", a nickname somewhat different from the one we are used to but according to Abreu himself, was due to his African ancestry on his father's side of the family, who also played as a striker and whom he himself defines as "crazy to hold on to pineapples (punches)".

At the age of 14, he played both football and basketball, benefiting from his height which, in one way or another, favored him in both sports and, additionally, he was a journalist for a local newspaper. On one occasion, he had to cover a basketball game where he was also a player and in which he ended up being the best player. Within this situation, Abreu, as a journalist, decided to interview the star performer, Abreu the player, so he himself asked the questions and answer them himself. Thus, the interview of Sebastián Abreu by Sebastián Abreu was born.

At the age of 16, Abreu is called up by the national under-17 basketball team, from which he was expelled for having bad behavior. A few weeks later, he was called up to the national under-17 football team with which he did not have much participation but it was worth it for the most important teams to notice him and that is how he made the leap from the humble Nacional de Minas to Defensor Sporting, where only a year later he was already making his debut in the first division.

His impact was immediate and despite not playing as many games due to his youth, he scored a lot of goals, which allowed him to have a very impressive goalscoring average and that is how San Lorenzo from Argentina noticed him and signed him.

The Argentine club was in a difficult situation to the point that when he entered the locker room for the first time, Oscar Ruggeri said "Is this the one who is going to save us?" However, in his debut, Abreu scored a goal against Boca Juniors at La Bombonera, which helped the red and blue club to tie against the Xeneize. After that moment, the Uruguayan settled in San Lorenzo where, funny enough, it was where he earned his iconic nickname of "El Loco" for his way of being so cheerful and so prone to joking around.

Deportivo La Coruña
Deportivo La Coruña - Abreu's first European club

The rest of his career

In just over a year, he was sold to Deportivo La Coruña in Spain and signed a six-year contract, starting a trend that would be a constant in his career: changing clubs in a short period time. Without having turned 20, Abreu was in his third team in three different countries.

His personality earned him to be very loved in the team by his teammates, but on the pitch he did not have a very good performance at the scoring level and for this reason, only six months later, with the arrival of Javier Irureta on the Galician dugout, he began a series of loan deals in various clubs in various countries such as Gremio in Brazil, Tecos, América and Cruz Azul in Mexico, a return to San Lorenzo in Argentina and to his country, to play with Nacional de Montevideo, a club of which he has been a fan of since he was a child.

Once his contract with Deportivo La Coruña ended, he had several stints through Mexico, Argentina (in this case with River Plate), Israel (Beitar Jerusalem), Spain (Real Sociedad) and Greece (Aris), from where he arrived at Botafogo in Brazil. In addition to being a globetrotter, Abreu was also a great player and that is why from a very young age he was called up to the national team of his country, with which he lived through many exciting moments both positively and negatively and the one most remembered by most of the fans and the world is what happened in South Africa, during the 2010 World Cup.

In the quarterfinal match of the competition, where Uruguay and Ghana met, Abreu was on the bench, as had been usual during the tournament since the starters were Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlán, who was playing a bit more delayed than usual. The African team took the lead with a goal from Muntari in the first half and 10 minutes into the second, Forlan equalized. Abreu entered in the 76th minute for Cavani, in a game that remained very even until the end and therefore reached extra time. The equality continued until minute 120, a free kick in favor of Ghana, reached the Uruguay area where after a couple of shots and rebounds, Adiyiah headed the ball past Muslera but was rejected on the goal line by Suarez with the hands. The referee indicated a penalty and got Suarez sent off.

Gyan took the ball and executed the penalty that hit the crossbar directly, taking the game to a penalty shootout. Abreu was well known for taking Panenka-style penalties and in this shootout he asked to be the fifth kicker. The day before, the Uruguayan team was practicing penalties in training, where Abreu missed the three that he executed.

During the shootout, Abreu looked at the movements of the Ghanaian goalkeeper to find out if it was feasible to kick the penalty as he used to do, to the point of impatient with his teammate Jorge Fucile because of the insistent question about the Ghanaian's movements. With a 3-2 in favor of Uruguay, it was Abreu's turn. Everyone who knew Abreu knew that he would do a Panenka however the Ghanaian goalkeeper seemed unaware as he was unable to stop "El Loco"'s penalty by diving to his right.

Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador, Chile and several returns to Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina were the next destinations for Abreu, who ended his career at Olimpia de Minas in his hometown. After a 26-year career, "El Loco" was in 31 different clubs, establishing the Guinness Record as the player who played in the most teams. The space of this article is not enough to recount the innumerable anecdotes of this player whose quality was eclipsed by his personality and experiences.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.