In his incipient managerial career, Ronaldo began courting his first signing when he still had no team where to put him to play. Last August he sent a friend to Quito with a phone to make a video call. Cacá, also an ex-football player, saw himself in a hotel with Stiven Plaza, forward of Independiente del Valle, 20 years old next month, and his agent, Jonathan Auer. After a while of chatting, the video call took place: "He told him that he was close to entering Valladolid and that he wanted him in the team," recalls Auer. But August ended, the market closed, and neither Ronaldo controlled Valladolid nor Plaza had left Ecuador. Independiente was reluctant to let go, he doubted if it was too early and in December Ronaldo ended up having to go in person to look for him. "It's no coincidence that my first signing is a striker," he said.
This week marks its first month in Pucela (it arrived on January 13), Plaza has not yet entered any call and Valladolid has the worst score in LaLiga: 19 goals in 23 games, the only team with less than a goal per encounter.
When the video call of Ronaldo, Plaza had just debuted in First, and debuted as a scorer in his second game, on August 12 against Emelec. The play contains the attributes that the technicians highlight of a fibrous pureblood of almost 1.90: he receives the race in the left, before two defenses; it overcomes the first one, who falls to the grass, brakes, takes three meters of advantage to the second in a blink, and alone with the goalkeeper, marks between him and the club. In the broadcast, commentators are unleashed: "Where did this beast have caged?" Shouts one. In September, he enters his first list of the senior team. Last week he was chosen as a revelation player in Ecuador.
The network of connections that ended with him in Valladolid began to weave in 2017 with a hint of Auer, who started as an agent and offered to Plaza: "I saw a different player," he says. The footballer had only completed a course at the Independiente school. Born in Esmeraldas, he had lived since he was 3 years old in Santo Domingo, very attached to his mother, surrounded by uncles with no specific and constant jobs. "They are humble," explains Auer; "He helps the family get ahead."
The next knot was added in February 2018, when he is runner-up in the Libertadores sub 20 with Independiente and finishes as top scorer, with seven goals. Auer's phone smokes: other agents offer to place it in Brazil, in Argentina, in Shakhtar. He chooses to partner with LifePro, a Brazilian company that works with Danilo and Marcelo.
They show videos to Ronaldo, who sends his friend to Quito. But Plaza was not decided, so they turn to Marcelo, who in a video posted on Twitter on August 31, says: "I hope you come very soon to Spain and can play here, and you'll be very welcome, okay?"
But Independiente does not give in and Ronaldo invites them to dinner in Madrid, where Michel Deller, the owner, and Santiago Morales, manager, fly in early December. They agree that Valladolid acquired 70% of the pass for about two million euros and a visit from Ronaldo. He had to go himself to pick up his chosen one, who at the end of the year had scored seven goals in 21 games. The Brazilian appeared in Sangolquí on December 10: he chatted with the academy boys, he signed, he answered questions in a press conference and he returned to Spain.
Out of four calls
Plaza arrived a month later, began exercising on the sidelines and continues with complementary work. "I need to adapt to European football. Trust and physical I need, "he said in his presentation.
So he has spent his first days in Valladolid, impressed by the cold and physically squeezed. "Football is much faster here, more intense, they never stop," says Auer, who has accompanied him to a hotel on Paseo Zorrilla. They looked for a flat, they walked, they walked through the shopping center and they enjoyed that they barely stopped him to ask for pictures. Auer celebrates that Valladolid has hired another striker, Sergi Guardiola. "Better, that's not all the weight for him," he says.
The agent has already returned to Ecuador, after leaving it installed in a house, alone, waiting for his mother to arrive, with whom he speaks daily. He sees series and plays on mobile (he has not bought a Play yet), and for the moment he has been out of four calls.