Walter Adrián Luján Samuel is a retired Argentine professional footballer. Gifted with natural power and good defensive skills, Samuel has been regarded as one of the best centre-backs of his generation, and as one of football’s toughest defenders, with former international teammate and Inter captain Javier Zanetti referring to him as the “hardest player” he has played with. Samuel began his club career with domestic club Newell’s Old Boys in 1996, later moving to Boca Juniors the following year. This was soon followed by a move to Europe in 2000, and spells with Italian club Roma, and Spanish club Real Madrid. In 2005, he returned to Italy, joining Inter, where he remained for nine seasons, winning five consecutive Serie A titles; he played a key role in the club’s treble success in the 2009–10 season, partnering with Lúcio in defence under José Mourinho. At international level, he has accumulated over 50 caps for the Argentine national team, representing his country at two FIFA World Cups, the 1999 Copa América, and the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, where he won a runners-up medal.
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Samuel has played 56 matches for Argentina between 1999 and 2010, scoring five goals. He played for his country in the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as in the 1999 Copa América, and in the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, in which Argentina won a runners-up medal.
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Samuel started playing professionally in 1996 in Argentina for Newell’s Old Boys, and a year later moved to Boca Juniors, where he played 103 matches and scored five goals in all competitions until 2000. In that year, Roma bought his contract for 40.265 billion Italian lire (about €20 million). He gained fame as one of the best defenders in the Italian league and gained a nickname to match, winning the Serie A title with Roma in 2001. His quality attracted interest from Spanish team Real Madrid. Real Madrid paid €25 million for his transfer in 2004. Samuel failed to make an impact at Madrid and was not the leader at the back that Real so desperately needed. He was one of the three non-EU players of the team, along with Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos; they all obtained Spanish passports, however, in 2005.
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Regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation, Samuel was a large, quick, powerful, and aggressive centreback, who excelled in the air, both defensively, and as a goal threat on set pieces. His defensive skills, which included an excellent positional sense, an ability to read the game, as well as tough, tight marking, and hard tackling, made him extremely effective at anticipating opponents. His strong, consistent, and uncompromising style of play earned him the nickname Il Muro (“The Wall”). Despite his ability as a defender, his career was also marked by several injuries that affected his fitness.
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In August 2005, he returned to the Serie A with a transfer to Internazionale on a four-year contract for reported €16 million fee.In the Derby della Madonnina on 23 December 2007, he hurt himself whilst marking the Brazilian international Kaká, and a couple weeks later, he had reconstructive surgery on his medial collateral ligament. He was expected to be out until the end of the 2007–08 season. In actuality, he started training with the first team again in October of the 2008–09 season and promptly earned a first team place back under manager José Mourinho. Under Mourinho Samuel was a fixture in Inter’s first team, alongside his defensive partner Lúcio, as they won the Serie A title, the Coppa Italia, and the UEFA Champions League in the 2009–10 season, completing a historic treble. Samuel was praised for his defensive performances against Barcelona and Bayern Munich on Inter’s road to the Champions League title. Samuel suffered a severe knee injury in the 7 November 2010 fixture against Brescia.