Blast from the Past no.35: Horacio Carbonari

Reviving the Premier League players you forgot existed…

In the pantheon of Premier League greats, Alan Shearer was probably the most prolific, Cristiano Ronaldo the most explosive and Eric Cantona the most influential. But when it came to simply kicking a football really, really hard, there was no one better than Horacio Carbonari. And we’re not just saying that because it sounds good. That’s fact.

At least, that was the fact reported when Derby County signed the rugged Argentine from Rosario in the summer of 1999. Carbonari was billed as having the fourth most powerful shot in world football (Germany’s Andreas Moller was apparently number one) and had been nicknamed “Bazooka” at his former club. Not too shabby for a centre-back.

Not that useful for a centre-back either, but nobody minded about that. The fans flocked to Pride Park for the club record £2.7m signing’s home debut, just for a chance to witness the force of his formidable right peg.

“They had a pre-match video montage of him at Rosario,” recalled one Rams fan who was present that day. “It included a penalty that he SMASHED home. It was driven at the keeper who had his wrist snapped back as it flew in. Rather than celebrate, he went over to the keeper to apologise!”

Terrifying viewing for the first goalie to face Carbonari at the ground (Tottenham’s Espen Baardsen, if you’re interested), but in fact Mr Bazooka was saving his first goal for someone else: the Rams’ arch rivals Nottingham Forest.

His late equaliser in a 2-2 draw at the City Ground didn’t break any of Dave Beasant’s limbs, but it did ensure Carbonari’s relationship with Derby fans got off to a good start.

He followed this up with a fine strike against Southampton, before Chelsea fell victim to one of his famous 40-yard free-kicks - although in fairness it was more of a bamboozler than a bazooka, taking a deflection off the wall before squirming into the bottom corner.

Which was all very well and good, but what about his defending? Not quite as spectacular, unfortunately.

“Carbonari came with the billing of a typical South American tough defender, but for me he never quite fulfilled expectations. He was a decent player on his day but not in the same league as legends like Roy McFarland, Mark Wright or Igor Stimac,” said one supporter on the Derby County Mad forum.

“He came here just after the peak of that Jim Smith side, so was more associated with its slide than its rise,” agreed another.

True enough, the Rams were on the crest of a wave when Carbonari arrived, having been the top flight’s surprise package of 1998 with a ninth-placed finish. But even then, the defender’s debut season was a cracker.

Smith’s side came 8th - the Rams’ best ever Premier League finish - and Carbonari scored five goals. Nowadays though, Derby supporters only ever talk about one of them.

With five minutes left of the return fixture against relegation-haunted Forest, Carbonari jinked past one defender and then sidestepped Steve Chettle before bazookaring home a delicious solo goal that no defender ever had the right to score.

“Almost certainly the most enjoyable moment in Derby’s Premier League history,” was how one fan described it.

Which by definition means it could never be surpassed, and it wasn’t.

Derby’s slide began the following season, with three years of relegation battles costing Smith his job and culminating with the drop in 2002.

The Bald Eagle moved to Championship side Coventry and took Carbonari with him on loan, but Sky Blues fans do not remember either of them fondly.

Horacio was soon sent packing to the place from whence he came - Rosario, Argentina, where his hero status remains undimmed. He returned home with his held high, having successfully spread the word of the Bazooka - a fearsome weapon that neither Derby nor Forest fans would ever forget.

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