Position: Central defender
From: Glasgow Celtic - free transfer - July 2001
Record: Played: 29(4) Scored: 3
To: ??? - free transfer - June 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Ra-MON!
It is hard, even now, to dislike Ramon Vega.
Sure, it has been a long-established rumour-fact that his team-mates found it rather less difficult to dislike him. In the stands too, he never became the cult hero that early performances hinted at...mainly because clumsy mistakes tended to out-weigh moments of obstinate magnificence.
Similar rumour-facts have made his, frankly, absurd weekly wage packet common knowledge and resulted in thoroughly tiresome and repetitive value-for-money debates being a regular feature of pre- and post-match discussions. He became, before Marcus Gayle took over from him, an early symbol of Luca Vialli's wasteful transfer policy.
And, while he can hardly be blamed for taking the money on offer, his reaction to being transfer-listed when the board was no longer willing to sustain the wage bill was considerably less than gracious. Other players were also disappointed, other players continued to give something approaching their all. Ramon Vega, like Pierre Issa, made his feelings quite clear and didn't play for the first team again.
While we're at it, it is quite impossible to write this piece without referring to Martin Blanc's description of Vega as "a steroidal oaf, a Swiss Frank Bruno". Rarely has the essence of a player been so perfectly, and mercilessly, captured. At his worst, Vega was an absolute liability, an accident impatient to happen. Rather than getting his own chant, his name instead became synonymous with chaos and catastrophe...
It is difficult to imagine exactly how Luca Vialli came to believe that Ramon Vega's presence would stabilise a defence that had been nervous and error-prone throughout the previous season. His failings were vividly illustrated by the too-brief success of the later partnership between Filippo Galli and Wayne Brown, two players with plenty of oomph, yes, but with awareness, steadiness and competence to match. Simply, Ramon Vega wasn't what we needed...and at a price that we couldn't afford....
So, yeah, but...
He was a lot of fun, wasn't he? And, now that it's all ended in tears, that does count for something. Even if only because he always made the effort to applaud the supporters at the final whistle, and sometimes demanded greater encouragement from the Rookery during games too, he was a rather more invigorating presence than much of the rest of Luca Vialli's often vacuous team. He may not have cared...but he at least bothered to fake it.
And there were times when he was immense. When he'd pull off ridiculous saving tackles, setting off in pursuit in that unique style - like a skier on an uphill climb, all hunched shoulders, pumping arms and slowly sliding feet - and wrap an elongated leg around his opponent to take the ball away at the vital moment. Or when he'd win everything in the air with gigantic leaps and burly strength. It was just that he didn't do any of this consistently. In fact, he didn't do anything - not even the most straightforward things - consistently.
In a way, all of these qualities and anti-qualities might've made Ramon Vega an endearing long-term asset for Watford Football Club. The fondness with which Keith Dublin is remembered, the way that fans still tell tall tales of remarkable own goals, insanely cavalier defending and sporadic heroism with broad smiles and genuine affection, demonstrates that perfection isn't the be-all and end-all for supporters.
But Ramon Vega could never overcome a fundamental contradiction. You can be Keith Dublin, or you can be the most highly paid defender in the club's history.
You can't be both.
See also: Hall Of Arse