Ronaldo Nazario: “Roberto Ayala always threatened me and played to the limit”


Brazilian and football legend Ronaldo Nazario recently gave an interview where he mentioned Roberto Ayala as the defender who hit him the most.

An illustrious national team and club career, Ronaldo has played against the very top defenders the world has had to offer. But it’s one Argentine who stands above the rest in one aspect. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, here’s what he had to say:

“Roberto Ayala was probably the defender who hit me the most in my career.

“Every time I faced him, he always threatened me and played to the limit. I just tried to defend myself.”

High praise from one of the all time greats.


  1. Our current defenders tiers:
    World Class: N/A
    Tier 1 (Top European Level): N/A
    Tier 2 (Mid European Level): Foyth, Tagliafico
    Tier 3 (Mediocre Level) : Otamendi, Pezella, Quarta,
    Tier 4 (Below average, aka, liabilities): Rojo, Saravia, Kennemann, Montiel

    • Just curious, what is the definition of a top european level? Is it actually being a starter for a top european team or is it performing in the champions league? If it’s the latter then Tagliafico is a tier 1 as you put it.
      Also how would you rank C.Romero who is a juventus player on loan to Genoa and who happens to perform very well in a strong league despite playing for a relegation threatened club. What about Nehuen Perez? Who happens to be a top performer in the surprise package team that is Familiacao.
      Lastly how can you put Quarta in a ‘mediocre level’ when he hasn’t even played in europe yet? Is every player in the primera automatically ‘mediocre level’? Is Palacios for example automatically mediocre even though he’s been ranked in the top 30 best players U21 by ESPN?

      • > October 16, 2019 at 12:58 am
        Just curious, what is the definition of a top european level? Is it actually being a starter for a top european team or is it performing in the champions league? If it’s the latter then Tagliafico is a tier 1 as you put it.

        It’s a mix with top team having more weight.

  2. Any day will choose garay over otamendi and rojo.. if scaloni choose any one old experience centre back with the mix of young center back then it is only garay will be picked..still at the age of 33 he is playing well and with consistency

  3. I expect not much changes from Scaloni compared to Copa 19 squad: Armani, Marchesin, Tagliafico, Acuna, Otamendi, Pezzella, Foyth, Paredes, Guido. Lo Celso, De Paul, Di Maria, Dybala, Aguero, Messi, Lautaro will be 100% there, last time injured players Andrada and Palacios too, only changes will be Casco, Funes Mori, Pereyra, Saravia, Suarez out, Montiel, Kannemann, Nicolas Dominguez, Ocampos and Alario in.

      • Di Maria out.
        He doesn’t track back and losses possession most of the time. Also he cant play in any position other than RW.
        We can give Buendia a chance he is versatile. And a very good passer.

        • Di Maria will be 100% there as super sub, still our fastest player, and maybe the only one who can give width, Buendia is not on his level. We saw how much more faster and dynamic germans were against us, and their fastest players didnt even play Werner and Sane, no pace in this team. peak Di Maria, Messi, Aguero, Higuain team was one of the most fast and dynamic teams of the world, now we are rather slow.

          • Its true that di maria is fast not denying it. But the actual problem is his position. If we take alario martinez aguero messi and dybala. Dont you think we should take one extra midfield ? Btw lets see what happened. As a supper sub di maria might be handy but if he starts on the LW again its just gonna ruin everything.

  4. Interesting topic, you all are discussing. I was a big fan of Ayala and Samuel. Ayala in Valencia and Samuel in Roma etc. We are saying they are world class and we lack qualities like them. I also think, that wish we had a Ayala or Samuel. But question is what did they win? We got knocked out of 2002 WC in group stages or lost 3-0 Brazil, with Ayala own goal before the half time killing the game (not blaming him, shit happens).

    Having said that they were tough players. Ayala was amazing in the air. They played at the top level. But thinking of defenders, ask yourself a question – when was the last time we had a CD as the pillar of a CL winning team? Thinking CL, since as NT we have not won anything in 25 years anyway.

  5. We have had a problem in the cb position since 2008, I think the same time Ayala retired. If my memory is correct, Samuel lingered for some time after but wasn’t as effective. Then their replacement was the handsome yet unreliable demichelles. He was the one that would play fantastic all match then would miss an elementary marker to allow the opposing team to score. I think we tried Gabi militio also… But waited till he was 30 years old.. same as his brother Diego Rocky Milito, who I love, but wasnt played in senior team till he was old also.
    If we can’t produce good cbs and reliable defenders… Then we need to have a system of team play and back track to cover our weaknesses.

  6. Rojo should be choosen over Otamendi.Rojo still has class and he should not play at CB.He has a natural instinct to go forward so he should be used as left back more.He has a lot of football in him.
    For Otamendi his time is already up for the NT. I see very hugh potential in Leanardo Balerdi plus he is at Borusia Dortmund which grooms young talent very well. I think after one year he will be good enough to start for NT in CB pair.He is attacking center back.

    • Wrong. Rojo is a CB turned LB by Sabella, who only played well (defensively) in 2014. That’s about it. We all saw how disastrous was his recent call-up.

      • But Rojo plays good only in LB he is too rash for CB position.There are many defenders who came as forwards but they turned into defenders like Marcelo

  7. Problem with Garay was that he did not want to play friendlies he wanted to play only qualifiers amd tournament games.That did not go well with AFA so they rejected him or may be coach rejected him.Garay is too old now for team so we should stick to our young players.

  8. Rojo was actually a solid defender back in 2014, although nothing compared Mascherano. He was less aggressive and actually had skill. Not to forget Garay’s performances too.

  9. Today we have the 2nd match u23 match against mexico. The only concern is high altitude…. argentines always struggle in altitudes(except may be the famous win in Quito,equador)

  10. I totally agree here with many comments that Garay should be called up. He was one of the most important players in wc2014 and his postioning and physical attributes as well as his height give him superiority to other called up players like Otamendi and Rojo for instance. Anyway he is too old now for this team however if someone needs to be called for NT I would totally prefer him rather than Otamendi or Rojo. Scaloni is pumping a new blood in the team and all youth should take a chance

  11. CB is our main problem right now. Argentina don’t have solid CB. Otamendi and rojo should not be called up in next friendly. Instead of that coach should give chance to Balerdi, quarta or c romero. Balerdi is a potential CB if we groom.

  12. For our CB pair Foyth, Quarta Martinez and Leanardo Balerdi looks good.I have high hopes on Foyth and Balerdi.Theyvare young and better than our old guard.

  13. After Ayala and Samuel, to me, only Garay reached the standard. Most of them are disappointing with NT. For example Otamendi who is gifted technically and has great tactical sense, cannot handle well the stress and even lost focus when things don’t turn to the way he wants. Among all players of the new generation, the one I like the most is Lisandro Martinez(even though he may operate as DM). Quarta and Romero not bad too. The one with the highest potential should be Foyth but he definitely need more playing time at club. I like Scaloni using him as RB because to me, it’s necesssary to have 1 of the fullbacks able to play as CB.

    • 100% agree, Garay was hella classy and for the life of me I still don’t understand why he was dropped from the NT, maybe had problems with messi, who knows.
      If Scaloni is so keen on calling players with experience he can skip Otamendi and Rojo and call Garay instead because out of those 3 he’s the only one who is playing at a very high level.
      There are lots of up and coming defenders to be excited about, Quarta, Licha, Nehuen and C.Romero are all ripe with potential. Even Balerdi showed real promise in his brief cameo against Ecuador where he defused a potentially dangerous attack through sheer speed and technique around the 85th minute.

      • Otamendi is finish soon he will be 32.
        But I’m sure the coaching staff already
        Looking for young defenders to replace
        Otamendi Probably foyth .
        I’m hearing pochettino will play him
        CB a long with Sanchez cos .
        He had enough with Belgium dou
        Please no more fucking rojo
        I swear it’s embarrassing to arg nt.

    • Yes Rojo is a mystery to me. He has already proven in 2018 that he doesn’t have his place in the 23, why keeping on calling him? If I were Scaloni, I would have asked him to change club. Anyone with 0 playing time cannot be ready for any international game.

      I think Ota is not a leader, more as an value add if the defense is already solid without him. Pezzella plus Ota is a bit slow.

    • Add Campagnaro to the mix as well. He was really good during the 2012-14 period for Napoli and as well as for us, wasn’t he? For me, he was the best Argentine defender at club level at that time. Sabella rarely used him as a centre half in a back-4 if I’m not wrong, mostly as a right back or in a 3 man backline.

      Also have to disagree with the part where you say Otamendi is gifted technically and has great tactical sense. No he is not. Albeit he improved his ball playing skills, technical aspects and tactical aspects of the game under Guardiola, he was never gifted with all those in the first place. He’s a warrior, nothing more. I admire him for that but for a good reliable defender, you need to be more all round in every aspects of the game, not just aerial dominance.

  14. Il Fenomeno is not the only one. Most of the ex-players (legends of the game mainly) have only nothing but high praise for El Ratón. Drogba, Ferdinand to name a few. Despite all this praise from these players he was still underrated in world football, wasn’t he? What to say, even here some called him overrated. But that’s not a shock in Mundo. Most of our legends are treated rubbish here. Not along ago it was against Crespo if I recall.

    Anyway, El Ratón is one of the all time greats of the game for me. A bona fide legend.

      • Mascherano is a legend undoubtebly. My problem was, him playing in the midfield rather than a centre half for us which he became since his Barca days. For me , he was wasting a position there and we could have used him better in central defence.

        • No bro he did well (as cdm) upto 16 and should have retired then ,I still remember how he nullified attacks of sneijdar and robben in 14 wc and the way he encouraged romero before penalty shootout

          • I have to agree with you he did well in midfield, until 2014 not 2016 in my opinion. The way we played the game under Sabella, defensive counter attacking game, he didn’t have a problem. But once Tata Martino took over, it changed. In his possession based game, Mascherano was ruined in midfield and it impacted the team. Biglia was also ruined but not by the system but by the manager alone. Biglia can play in a possession based style, no doubt about that, but playing alongside a one-dimensional destroyer limited his game and was asked to do what he was not capable of.

    • No I don’t think he was underrated, at least not in France, I remember the French journalists considered him as the best CB in the early 2000s. The only thing I didn’t like about Ayala was he tend to drift his defense too deep which slow down the transition and required huge efforts for the midfielders to drive. But after all, I believe that Samuel-Ayala is the best CB pair ever for the NT.

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