SAFC Legends Series – Julio Arca

Born in Quilmes, Argentina on 31st January 1981, Julio Arca began his playing career in the Argentine Primera División for Argentinos Juniors in 1998.

He made 36 appearances over the course of 2 seasons before making the move to England at the tender age of 19.

Sunderland beat Newcastle and Leeds United to Arca’s signature in 2000, where he signed a 5-year-deal for a total of £3.5 million.

Despite being such a young age, Arca became a regular during the 2000/2001 season, scoring 2 goals in 27 appearances as Sunderland finished 7th for the second year running.

Following his first season with the Black Cats he was named Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year.

He spent 3 seasons in the Premier League with Sunderland, becoming a cult hero, known for giving his all in every game.

Unfortunately, in the 2003/2004 season, Sunderland finished rock bottom in the Premier League, finishing with just 19 points.

The following season, Sunderland narrowly missed out on automatic promotion, and were beaten by Crystal Palace in the Play-Off Semi-Final on penalties.

Julio Arca however, had a brilliant season and he was named in the PFA Team of The Season after scoring 6 goals from midfield.

The season after, Arca was named in the PFA Team of The Season for the second time in a row as the Black Cats were promoted back to the Premier League as champions.

His final season with Sunderland was a disappointing one as Sunderland were relegated straight back to the Championship with just 15 points, but that doesn’t take away just how vital of a player he was for Sunderland in the past.

Arca had left Sunderland, but he stayed in the North-East and signed for Middlesbrough for £1.75 million and he went on to play 185 games for The Boro, scoring 9 goals, playing the majority of his time as a Left-Wingback.

Arca retired from football in 2013 after spending his whole English career in the North-East and he spent a short amount of time as a Youth Coach at Sunderland in 2015.

He returned to football later that year, signing for Northern League Second Division side South Sheild’s and he became the star man during his 3 year stint their.

During his time there, he won 3 promotions and 3 Cup wins and he even captained the side at Wembley as they beat Cleethorpes Town 4-0 to win the FA Vase.

In 2011, he was voted by the fans, into the Sunderland Solid Gold XI, proving just how loved he was by the Sunderland faithful.

Spending a total of 16 years playing in the North-East, it is fair to say he will always be a North-East hero.