Carlos Valderrama (1961- ), he of the massive dyed-blond afro and contrasting dark brown pornstar mustache, was the greatest footballer ever produced by the nation of Colombia. A center midfielder, he still holds the record for international caps by a Colombian player, at 111.

Not that anyone predicted this when he was first coming up in the Colombian League. Short, even for a soccer player, at only 5'9" (although the massive afro certainly made him seem taller), Valderrama was also slow, bad at scoring goals, and had attitude problems, quarreling with almost all of his early coaches.

But as he developed, Valderrama soon became one of the premier passers in the world. A master of dribbling in traffic, his specialty was making pinpoint passes right to the feet of teammates on the run.

Like I said, he was not fast by any means. Which is why the enduring image in my mind of Valderrama is of him dribbling around lethargically at midfield, defenders converging on him but unable to take the ball away from him, and then finally he kicks out a perfect through ball to a teammate racing down the wing, who taps it in for an easy goal.

Accordingly, it is most appropriate to measure Valderrama's performance by his incredible totals of assists, rather than goals scored. He was not a well-rounded player, and only scored 11 goals in his 111 international games.

But so great were his two skills of dribbling and passing that Valderrama became one of the most popular and dominant players of his era (late 80s to late 90s). After leading Colombia to 3 straight World Cup appearances (1990, 1994, 1998) and taking starring turns for Montpellier HSC in the French Ligue and later Atl├ętico Junior back in the Colombian League, Valderrama finished up his career as one of the most popular players in the US MLS league, starring for the Tampa Bay Mutiny, the Miami Fusion, and the Colorado Rapids and compiling 114 MLS assists, still the second highest mark in MLS history, before retiring after the 2002 season.

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