Panama – El Canalero
His full name may be Julio Cesar Dely Valdes, but back home in Panama he is simply known as “Panagol” or “El Canalero”. Every child in Panama knows him. He is, after all, the best and most famous footballer that this small Central American country has ever
produced. As if that were not enough, the Panamanians also voted him the country’s sportsman of the 20-th century. Dely Valdes, whose brothers Jorge and Armando were also professional footballers, began his career in his hometown of Colon. In 1989, at the age of 22, he left Atletico Colon for pastures new and joined Argentinian fourth-division outfit Deportivo Paraguayo, for whom he would score 28 goals in 33 matches, which was enough to secure a move to Uruguayan giants Nacional. It was on the banks of the River Plate that Dely Valdes truly became a star and a crowd favourite, scoring more than 100 goals and leading Nacional to the Uruguayan league title in 1992. By now, clubs in Europe had started to sit up and take notice of him and Cagliari moved to sign the powerful striker. After Italy, he moved on to France (Paris Saint-Germain, where he won the European Cup Winners’ Cup) and then to Spain (Real Oviedo, Malaga) before returning to Nacional and finally to Arabe Unido in Panama, where he brought the curtains down on his career some three years ago.
Although he was unable to qualify for a FIFA competition as a player, he has already done so as a coach. Dely Valdes, who is now 41, coaches the Panama U-17 and U-20 teams with his twin brother Jorge, and together they led the latter to last year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada.