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Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Chile and Cyprus are just some of the places where the Solari family, the footballing dynasty headed by brothers Eduardo and Jorge from the Argentinian city of Rosario, have put down roots. They have always been linked to football, first as players and then as coaches.
The family members currently attracting the most attention for their football are Santiago (he started his successful career with Real Madrid and has just left Inter Milan) and his brother Esteban, who, at 28, has finally achieved his ambition of playing in one of the major European leagues, having been signed by Spanish side Almeria. In his own way, of course, their uncle Jorge is also still a force to be reckoned with, leading Atletico Tucuman to victory and promotion to the second division of the Argentinian league (B Nacional) in the first half of this year-no mean feat.
The Solaris’ “home team”, so to speak, is the club Renato Cesarini. This small club in Rosario has a great reputation for nurturing talent and its football school has been in business since 1978. This is where the second generation of Solaris, Eduardo’s sons, started out. Three of them arc now professional footballers: Santiago, Esteban and David. They were raised on football. They followed their dad around the world (in fact, Santi had to change schools almost ten times) and now they follow the ball.
“I remember when we were children we spent all our time playing football. Or any other sport, anything at all that involved motor skills. My parents always looked for places with plenty of room for us to play. And that’s what we spent our days doing. We even made my sister’s friends play with us,” recalls Esteban, who has spent time in Italy, Belgium, Cyprus and Mexico. And he adds proudly that “beyond the family connection, each of us carved out his own career. I played for the league in my country, after which I played in Italy, then I scored lots of goals in Cyprus and I made the move to Pumas. Once again, things went really well for me there and luckily that opened the doors of the major European clubs to me, which is what I had always hoped for. I did It all on my own.”
The first of the dynasty’s second generation is Santiago, who moved to Madrid when he was only 22. He belongs to a special breed of players: he is a left-footer Off the pitch, he is reserved about his private life and tries to keep out of the spotlight. He was a star at Real Madrid, no less, winning two Ligas, one Champions League, one Intercontinental Cup, one European Super Cup and two Spanish super cups: “Real Madrid is home to me. There is nothing nicer than having that recognition, especially in a spott where everything moves so fast. It was a fantastic period, when major victories, exquisite football and unforgettable players came together,” says Santiago, who often prefers to talk about music and books rather than his work: “Music, litetature and cinema are where I go to escape for a while when things get boring … and it’s a great world, isn’t it?”
“El Indiecito” [the little Indian], who is married and about to have another child, says that he will remain involved in football when he retires and that he plans to settle in Madrid.
Alicia is the wife of Eduardo – who was Colombian champion with Junior de Baranquilla — and is mothet to three footballing sons and a daughter, Liz, a well-known model in Argentina, who says: “I used to always hang around with my brorhers when I was a child. They would put me in goal. They would put me there and kick the ball at me. They were brutal! I was just like one of the boys … Once they hit me with the ball and broke my wrist… You can imagine how my brutish brothers used to knock me around!”
Mum Alicia has been surrounded by footballs for more than 40 years and has also travelled the world. When her son David was just a newborn and they were temporarily based in Barranquilla, she brought him to the inauguration of the new stadium. Along with football and sport, education was the family’s priority.
As a mum who travelled a lot, she made sure that her children could study in whatever country they were in, juggling things to make sure they never had to repeat a year. All of them completed their studies; Santi and Esteban even went on to train as physical education teachers. They became footballers by choice, not because it was imposed on them. Here is an intetesting fact: they are fans of Newell’s Old Boys, while their father and siblings support arch-rivals Rosario Central.
As well as Jorge Solari, whose nickname was “El Indio” [The Indian], there is his son Jorgito, who never got to play for the first team at Newells Old Boys, but did make the reserves. While his father has just led Atletico Iucuman to victory, he is a trainer with Renato Cesarini, so also connected to football. And to top things off, Natalia, Jorge’s daughter, is married to Fernando Redondo! “They knew each other before, but it all happened when I was coaching Fernando in Tenerife,” recalls Jorge with a smile.
But the story does not end there. The third generation has already ensured continuity. Augusto, Jorge’s grandson, is showing signs of becoming a classic no. 10 in the River Plate youth side. There are also Estcban’s sons and others. And the family keeps on growing. Originally from Rosario, the Solari name is synonymous with football. Every Christmas the growing family celebrates at the Renato Cesarini steakhouse. No prizes for guessing what they talk about at those get-togethers …