Amidst all of the heartbreak surrounding Ambrosini’s departure, another player’s contract was not renewed: Mario Yepes. Whether or not he was told before the announcement is hard to know, because he was probably in Colombia at the time, still captaining his national team. You know the team with players like Falcao, Luis Muriel, Zuniga, Guarin, Cuadrado, and more. Yes, at the young age of 37, he is still captaining this amazing young squad like he has since 2008, with 90 caps. But at Milan, he is not even deemed worthy of a spot on the bench, with the club opting not to renew his contract. I’m crushed.
You have to know that my football crush on Mario Yepes began when he was playing with Chievo Verona. I saw this amazingly strong, tall Colombian defender who was absolutely beastly against everyone. His positioning and reading of the game was incredible, and he was phenomenal in the air. So imagine how happy I was when I heard he was coming to Milan. And even if he played second fiddle to Thiago Silva and Nesta his first two years, he always came up big when called upon (which was 15 appearances the first year and 11 the second year in all competitions, if you are keeping track.)
It was after both players left at the same time that his experience was perhaps most valuable, even if Allegri didn’t call on him as much as he could have. He did not score in his 17 appearances in Serie A and Champions League this past season, but he did score in the Coppa Italia. However he was immense when he did play, a lifetime of experience where we had lost perhaps the most. But don’t take my word for it, check out the player characteristics from www.whoscored.com:
Yes, that’s right, it says “player has no significant weaknesses.” Which I have to agree with. A nearly perfect defender. For me, his departure is twice as heartbreaking, as he was also one of the most attractive members of our team. If I were to rate his appearance, I would also have to say “player has no significant weaknesses.” That’s right, I’m not ashamed to admit that in addition to my football crush, I think he’s hot. Deal with it. I am losing one of my favorite players and some beautiful eye candy.
But back to my football crush, I am more scared than ever for our back line with the loss of Super Mario, as he was called during his time at PSG. I know he’s 37 years old, but at 37, he’s still twice the defender Bonera and Zaccardo will ever be and Bonera was given a two year renewal Zaccardo is here through 2017. Yepes has won 5 career titles in 3 different leagues, including the Scudetto he helped Milan win. His experience outweighed his aging pace, and he was still a force to be reckoned with in attack, too.
I know that he had to leave at some point, but it seems very extreme to replace him with the virtually unknown 18 year-old Colombian, Jherson Vergara. It seems like Vergara could really have used at least a year under Yepes’ tutelage if we were to be smart. But that’s not how Milan rolls these days. And they knew he wouldn’t badmouth the club or trash talk management, either, because Yepes is 100% class. As a player, as a teammate, as a person. He has always just been grateful for the chance to play, always willing to give his best under any circumstance. And sadly, that attitude might actually be what Milan will miss most about him.
I will miss my Apocalypto, as Yepes is often called. But Milan will probably miss him more. It’s so hard to watch our players age and come to grips that we might not see them anymore. At least that may not be true with Yepes, as his agent was looking for a club for him even before the announcement, and he was most recently linked with the newly promoted Hellas Verona. I hope he plays at least one more year in Serie A, because I think he’s still got what it takes. It will be sad to see him in another team’s uniform again, but at least I’ll still get to see one of my favorite defenders play. I know it was only three years, but it’s hard to remember the Milan bench without such a tremendous, humble, and quiet leader. Simply put, I’m crushed. Thank you for everything, Mario. Adios.
This post inspired by the music of Norah Jones