Comparisons with Balotelli?
While his would-be international team mates were impressing in their run to the semi-finals of the Copa America, Reimond Manco was also making the final four, albeit in a slightly less prestigious competition. You see, while Peru were doggedly making their way past Colombia, Manco was dancing his way into the semi-finals of ‘Amigos y Rivales’, Peru’s answer to ‘Dancing With The Stars’.
It was a fitting end to a tumultuous four years for the young Manco, who burst onto the scene as a 17-year old in 2007 and has rarely been out of the newspapers since. When El Comercio asked him in an interview earlier this year whether we would next see him in the news or the sports section of the paper, it summed up everything that has gone wrong with what originally seemed such a promising career.
Manco first caught the public’s attention as a key component of the Peru U-17 team that finished fourth at the 2007 South American U-17 Championship, named player of the tournament by CONMEBOL. He led the side into the U-17 World Cup, assisting two of their group stage goals, before scoring in the quarter final penalties victory over Tajikistan. Closely marked, he struggled to make an impact in Peru’s 2-0 defeat to Ghana in the semi-finals, but had nevertheless impressed sufficiently to be coveted by a number of top European clubs.
An irregular starter with Alianza Lima, making most of his impact off the bench, he made the move to Europe with PSV Eindhoven in 2008, following the route taken by Jefferson Farfan four years earlier. He provided an assist on his debut, but struggled to establish himself, either at PSV or in an injury-ravaged loan spell at Willem II. There were rumours of indiscipline and a poor attitude in training, and he was shipped back to Peru, on loan to Juan Aurich, in early 2010.
Juan Aurich were competing in the Copa Libertadores - South America’s Champions League - for only the second time in their history and were hopeful that Manco could help them make a significant impact in the competition. Two good performances in their qualifying tie against Estudiantes Tecos of Mexico showed initial promise. But other than a man of the match award in a 4-2 victory over fellow Peruvians Alianza Lima, Manco only displayed the merest glimpses of his talent as Juan Aurich were eliminated in the group stage.
PSV elected to cut their losses in the summer of 2010, terminating Manco’s five year contract three years early, and thus he joined Juan Aurich on a permanent basis. The stability that had previously been lacking in his career finally appeared to have arrived, and he was rewarded for his improved performances with a call up to the Peruvian national team for three September friendlies.
Manco came off the bench to assist a Juan Carlos Fernandez goal against Canada and then started the subsequent matches against Jamaica and Costa Rica. He did enough to earn himself a place in the squad for an away friendly with Panama in October, but just as it seemed he was getting his career back on track he was involved in what the Peruvian press rather hyperbolically referred to as the ‘Panama Scandal’.
Reports emerged that three Peruvian players had skipped curfew the night after the match and had been seen in a local casino in the early hours in the company of women. Speculation was rife as to who the perpetrators could be. Manco, upon being asked if he was involved, indicated that he had enjoyed a good night’s sleep. Subsequent witness reports and other evidence said otherwise, and Manco was eventually forced to admit his involvement.
Peru coach Sergio Markarian initially responded by saying that all those involved would never play for the national team again, although he later reneged on this statement, indicating that the door was open for the offenders to return the national set up. It is telling, however, that of the three players implicated, only Jefferson Farfan returned to the squad.
Manco moved to Mexico with Atlante in January of 2011, a move that was destined to end in the disaster from the minute he signed the contract. Atlante are based in Cancun; Manco is a notorious party animal. In the circumstances it’s surprising their relationship even lasted the two months and seven games it did, although no-one could have predicted the bizarre circumstances in which their union was severed.
On the 10th March 2011, Manco turned up late for training with his breath smelling strongly of alcohol. Far from admitting his culpability, Manco claimed that he and his cousin had been kidnapped and beaten by a taxi driver the previous night. Police, upon taking statements from Manco and his cousin, noticed a number of disparities in their respective accounts. When the Police reclaimed security camera footage from the area where the alleged incident took place there was no sign of either of the supposed victims. Manco and his cousin were reprimanded for providing false statements and fined for wasting police time. Atlante dismissed him.
Manco therefore found himself with time on his hands. With a contract dispute with his estranged Mexican owners ongoing, he decided it wise not to train with another professional club, at least until the off-season. And so began his flirtation with reality television that ended with a defeat in the semi-final when his ‘toadas’ was considered inferior to that of ex-footballer Julinho.
In early August he began to train with Juan Aurich, who are hopeful they can come to an agreement with Atlante to allow Manco to turn out for them in the near future. Even at the age of just 20, this will surely be the last chance Manco has to redeem a career that has thus far delivered far more entertainment off the pitch than it has on it.