Whatever happened to Diego Buonanotte?

28 March, 2021
28 March, 2021
5 min read

We've all got our favourite wonderkids from editions of Football Manager gone by. Those players that we signed at the start of every save and built our whole side around. This week we make it a hat-trick of consecutive South American wonderkids, with Argentinian Diego Buonanotte.

Diego Buonanotte in FM2009

Diego Buonanotte starts the game at Argentinian giants River Plate, and although he has no release clause, he can be signed for just £5million - a bargain considering his attributes. At the age of just 20, Diego is already a world-class playmaker that could step into any side in the world. As well as his incredible passing and creativity, he's also an incredible dribbler who's quick, agile and unpredictable; on top of this he offers a substantial goal threat too, with good levels of finishing and long shots. Where he stands out hilariously is in his weaknesses! They aren't so much areas that need work, they're simply things he cannot do. At 5'3" with an attribute of 1 in both heading and jumping, he definitely isn't going to be getting on the end of crosses!

Diego Buonanotte in FM21

To be fair to Diego, although he's not the world-class prospect he was once, he's still an excellent playmaker who could do a job for a number of sides. At 32 his electric pace has deserted him, as you'd expect, but he still has excellent technical ability and some strong mentals.

EL VIOLETA
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Real World Career

Diego Buonanotte joined the youth sides of River Plate way back in 2001, and made his first team debut in April 2006, just shy of his 18th birthday. In November 2007, his obvious potential was recognised as he was named by World Soccer magazine as one of the 50 most exciting teenagers on the planet. He was ranked 12th in the list ahead of some incredible names:

▪ Karim Benzema (15th)
▪ Toni Kroos (27th)
▪ Juan Mata (28th)
▪ Mesut Özil (37th)
▪ Alexis Sanchez (42nd)
▪ Ivan Rakitic (45th)

There are some stinkers in that list too, but as they may appear in future articles I won't be revealing them here!

2008 was a great year for Buonanotte, as he first helped River Plate to win the Clausura (Closing Stage) of that season. He was then selected to represent Argentina at the 2008 Olympics, as part of a squad that included the likes of Ángel Di María, Sergio Agüero, and a 21 year old Lionel Messi. With an already quality squad added to with overage midfielders Javier Mascherano and Juan Román Riquelme, game time was scarce for Buonanotte. He did play in the final group game, and scored in a 2-0 win over Serbia, but that was his only contribution to Argentina's Gold Medal performance.

2009 saw Diego go to another tournament with his country, this time the Toulon Tournament. In a youth tournament with less big names in the squad, Buonanotte was able to shine, and finished the tournament as joint top scorer with 4 goals as Argentina finished third.

December 2009 would see Diego Buonanotte's life change forever, and not in a good way. While driving a car filled with three of his friends, none of whom were wearing seatbelts, Diego lost control in awful weather and skidded off the highway and into a tree. While Diego suffered substantial injuries, his friends sadly lost their lives at the scene.

Diego's injuries kept him out of action for nearly three months, but amazingly this was still three months ahead of schedule. He had been able to recover from his physical injuries, but was still struggling mentally, especially as he was charged with triple manslaughter for the death of his friends.

Just over a year after the accident, in January 2011, Buonanotte signed for Spanish side Málaga for a fee in the region of £4million, although he returned to River Plate until July. In March he was cleared of any blame for the accident and the charges were dropped, meaning he could try to focus on his football without the threat of a prison sentence. He was part of a Qatari revolution at Málaga, joining a squad including Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joaquín, Isco, and Santi Cazorla among others. He only played 22 league games in 2 seasons for Málaga as he struggled to break into the side, and he joined Granada in January 2013. Buonanotte again struggled for game time and eventually went out on two loans in successive years, to Pachuca in Mexico and back to Argentina with Quilmes before joining Greek side AEK Athens on a free transfer.

He spent just a single year in Greece, but with 11 goals in 35 games in all competitions, he looked to be back in better form and helped Athens to a Greek Cup win. In July 2016 Buonanotte joined Chilean side Universidad Católica where he remains to this day. In this time he's won the 2016 Apertura stage, where he was voted player of the tournament, before then helping the side to three consecutive league titles from 2018-2020 in it's revamped format. Buonanotte has also won three Supercopa de Chile trophies in his time with Universidad.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

What went wrong?

I think it's clear to see that Diego's career was forever affected by the awful accident back in 2009. To not only have to deal with the physical recovery, but also the threat of a manslaughter charge and abuse from rivals fans and even on one occasion an opposition player, is a weight that nobody should have to carry through their career. How he would have developed without those events we'll never know, but there's no doubt Diego was prodigiously talented and could have been a real force in Europe in other circumstances.


Was Diego Buonanotte the first playmaker on your shopping list? Who did you prefer if not? Let me know over on Twitter @adam_otbfm, and leave some suggestions for wonderkids you'd like to see!

Don't forget to also head over to onthebreak.net where we've got a load of Football Manager content by myself and others!