Former Inter Milan striker Rodrigo Palacio scored over 200 goals during his stellar 20-year stint as a professional football player but he is now shooting hoops in the sixth tier of Italian basketball at the age of 41.
Palacio began his professional football career at 20 years old when he signed for Primera B Nacional outfit Huracan de Tres Arroyos from minnows club Bella Vista back in 2002. After an impressive season and a half at Huracan, he caught the eye of top-tier Argentinian side Banfield, who snapped him in January 2004.
He spent two seasons at the club, scoring 11 goals in 38 appearances before Boca Juniors came calling. It was with the Genoese that Palacio really began to shine.
By his second year, he had established himself as a regular starter and was banging in 20-plus goals a season at the Estadio Alberto J. Armando. His impressive form earned him multiple call-ups to the Argentina national team including a place in Jose Pekerman’s squad at the 2006 World Cup.
A move to Italy to play for Genoa followed in 2009 where in his third and final season he ranked among Serie A’s top scorers with 19 goals from 32 appearances. In June 2012, Inter Milan forked out £9.2million for his services, signing him onto a money-spinning three-year contract paying the player £2.3m a year.
At the time, Inter Milan were in a transitional phase so there would be no major silverware for Palacio during his five-year spell. But he did come close to winning the ultimate prize in football in 2014 when Argentina narrowly missed out on their third World Cup courtesy of a last-gasp winner from Mario Goetze in the final.
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He would spend a further four years at the top of the Italian football pyramid with Bologna from 2017 to 2021 before dropping to Serie B with Brescia. At the end of the 2021/2022 season, he was let go from his contract.
Yet despite fast approaching his forties at the time, Palacio didn’t want to stop competing in sports just yet. He was initially linked with a move to Serie D side ASD Imperia. But Palacio opted to change sports entirely by joining semi-professional basketball team Polisportiva Garegnano as a points guard.
Palacio had been a keen basketball player growing up. He juggled both football and basketball at youth level but chose to focus his attention on the former when things really started to kick on.
When he was playing for Bella Vista as a teenager, his former coach Ernesto Ancan confessed that he “finished playing basketball and came to football” and that “he arrived tired but played anyway due to the conditioning he had”. He has gone on to establish himself as a regular starter for Polisportiva Garegnano and doesn’t look like he will be retiring anytime soon.
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