Gabriel Heinze is a left-back for Argentina and Marseille in the French Ligue 1. His hard-hitting tackles and willingness to chase after seemingly lost causes have made him a favourite of the Marseille fan’s, who chant for him whenever he wins the ball from the opposition strikers. He can play at centre-back, but is more accomplished on the left, where his neat attacking link-up play can be fully appreciated.
He was born in Crespo, in central Argentina, and was brought up with a ball at his feet from a very young age. As a child Gaby hated losing, which is one of the reasons he plays football with such ferocity and determination. The ability he showed in his eight games for Newells Old Boys – based in Rosario and the nearest big side to his home-town – prompted Spanish side Real Valladolid to bring him to Europe in 1997.
His tackles weren’t always perfectly timed, but his effort, work-rate and ability on the ball proved that he was a world-class footballer in the making. He spent a year adapting to the pace of the game, and then another year out on loan at Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon, before making a first team spot his own, aged just 21.
Heinze started to establish himself as one of the World’s top defenders throughout his 3 year spell at Paris Saint Germain in France, which he came to view as a home from home. Playing superbly in the biggest European competitions ensured that he was noticed by the top clubs from around the World, as well as his national side – he made his debut for Argentina in April 2003.
As Heinze grew older his tackling ability developed, stopping him from flying into needless tackles as he had done in his earlier days. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson recognised that Gaby had come of age as a defender, and paid £6.9m for him in July 2004. A flawless debut, in which he scored the equaliser for United against Bolton, ensured that he quickly won a place in the fans’ hearts. His game was suited to the physical English game, and he excelled until a cruciate injury kept him out of the team, and on the recovery table, for most of his second season. Gabriel Heinze had returned to first team action just ahead of Argentina’s World Cup campaign, and was in the first-team on the day they crashed out to Germany.
The arrival of Patrice Evra, as cover for Gaby, ensured that competition was fierce for the left-back spot, with Gaby’s niggling injuries stopping him having a consistent run in the team. He started over 20 times for the Reds as they romped to the Premier League title, before deciding that he wanted a move back to Spain.
Gabriel was an instant hit at Real Madrid, and became part of the most formidable defence in Spain, alongside experienced professionals like Fabio Cannavaro and youngsters such as Sergio Ramos. In his first season in Madrid, Heinze won the Primera Liga title, and Real competed with the very best, both at home and in Europe, in 2008/09.
In August 2009, following the re-election of Florentino Perez, and wholesale changes to the squad, Gabriel Heinze was transferred to Marseille, where he has felt at home ever since arriving and has proven his critics at Real Madrid wrong.