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CFR hero Culio lives the dream

Published: Friday 17 October 2008, 19.00CET
From builder in Argentina to UEFA Champions League hero with CFR 1907 Cluj, Juan Culio tells uefa.com the Romanian club are certain they can "do great things" in the competition as they strive to qualify from Group A.
by Paul Saffer
CFR hero Culio lives the dream
Juan Culio announced himself to Europe with two goals at Roma ©Getty Images

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Published: Friday 17 October 2008, 19.00CET

CFR hero Culio lives the dream

From builder in Argentina to UEFA Champions League hero with CFR 1907 Cluj, Juan Culio tells uefa.com the Romanian club are certain they can "do great things" in the competition as they strive to qualify from Group A.
Juan Culio's career has already been fairly extraordinary but his introduction to the UEFA Champions League was spectacular by any standards, as he told users on his recent visit to the uefa.com Talk Football chatroom.

Romania move
Born in Argentina, Culio worked on a building site from his early teens until the age of 19, when he was spotted by third division CSD Flandria – who gave him his debut the day after a scout saw him playing local football. The midfielder rose up the divisions with Club Almagro, CA Independiente and Racing Club. Then, after a spell with CD La Serena in Chile, Culio transferred to CFR 1907 Cluj where he ended his first campaign in Europe with a Romanian championship medal.

'Immense joy'
Automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League followed, and the 25-year-old marked both his and CFR's debut in the competition with both goals in a stunning 2-1 win at AS Roma. "When I scored I felt immense joy," Culio said. "But when the referee blew his whistle, knowing we had won, I had scored twice and that my wife and daughter were in the Stadio Olimpico watching me – that was perfect."

Lampard duel
To prove it was no fluke, CFR then held Chelsea FC 0-0 on Matchday 2 to remain well placed in Group A ahead of Wednesday's visit to point-less FC Girondins de Bordeaux. "Chelsea are one of the biggest clubs in the world and we're very happy because we stood up to them and the result was very good for us," said Culio, who relished coming face to face with a personal hero. "I swapped jerseys with Frank Lampard which was an excellent prize for me. In my position he is the best player in the world. Just having his jersey is enough, believe me. I couldn't ask for anything else. I will have it as a special memory forever, and the shirt will be in my personal museum."

Chance of progress
With CFR second in Group A, they can now be forgiven for harbouring serious ambitions of reaching the knockout phase. "If we win the next game then we have a 50 per cent chance of qualifying, although a draw would also be very good," Culio said. "Everyone was saying it was the group of death, but we were somehow convinced we could stand up and do great things. Now we have to remain down to earth and stay calm to get to the next phase."

New home
Culio's performance at the Stadio Olimpico had Romanian Football Federation president Mircea Sandu and national coach Victor Piţurcă hinting they would like him to take citizenship, a tribute to how well he has settled since leaving South America. "I've been lucky because when I got here I played well straight away and helped me to settle. The manager also spoke a bit of Spanish and some players did too, so again I was lucky. Now I can communicate in Romanian, I understand everything and I don't need a translator. I felt a bit of a pain asking things all the time, but fortunately things have improved."

Last updated: 18/10/08 18.11CET

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