To fans of Deportivo Toluca and Mexican league football the name of Jose Cardozo is legendary and one that has a special place in the history of Deportivo Toluca and in the hearts and memories of the clubs fans. The word “legend “is used too often and not correctly in today’s football but in Cardozo’s case it is definitely appropriate.
At the time of writing Jose Cardozo is into his 2nd season as manager of Deportivo Toluca, his spiritual home one could say, but what about the man, the player, the legend himself ?
Toluca fan, Andries Oosterveen writes….
Jose Saturnino Cardozo Otazu was born in Nueva Italia in Paraguay on the 19th of March, 1971. His career as a prolific striker started at River Plate in Paraguay in 1988 where he scored 10 goals in 26 games. A move to St Gallen in Switzerland then followed where he in 2 years he played 37 games and scored 15 goals. When returning to South America in 1993 he joined Chilean side, Universidad Católica de Chile where his 11 goals in 36 games helped the team reach the 1993 Copa Libertadores de America final. It is after leaving Chile that Jose Cardozo’s career really started to take off. He returned to Paraguay and joined Club Olimpia where he netted an impressive 27 goals in 41 games.
These statistics, a height of 6 foot, an eye for goal and quick feet caught the eye of Deportivo Toluca, one of Mexican footballs top 3 footballing giants. The start to his Toluca career was low key by his standards, but as most Toluca fans will tell you the wait was worthwhile. Despite scoring 7 goals in 16 games at the start of his Toluca career, Cardozo went on to play for the club for 10 years where he scored an astonishing 249 goals in 332 games. That included 14 goals in the 2004 Apertura season.
His list of achievements are golden, special and include being Toluca’s highest ever goal scorer, 4th in the list of Mexican footballs all-time top scorers and having the honour of the title of being the highest goal scorer in one season with 29 goals in the 2002 Apertura season.
Jose Cardozo’s exploits did not go unnoticed outside of Mexico. Due to his achievements at Deportivo Toluca, he was voted Paraguayan Footballer of the Year in the years 2000, 2002 and 2003. In 2002 he was also named South American Footballer of the Year. For the Paraguay national team he is also the all time leading goal scorer with 25 goals and was able to play in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.
Eventually, in 2005, he was transferred to Argentine Primera side, San Lorenzo de Almagro where due to injury he missed several games. Though despite this he managed to score 5 goals in 23 games. After 1 year he left to try and finish his career back in Paraguay at Club Olimpia where he had had an impressive time before. But after failing to sign for them he decided to retire.
Besides scoring many special and important goals wherever he played he was also involved with a number of club and international title or finals reaching teams, where he also played a crucial role. Jose Cardozo was an U23 South American Champion with Paraguay in 1992. He was a Copa Libertadores de America finalist with both Cruz Azul in 2001 and Universidad de Católica in 1993. He won the league title with Club Olimpia in 1993, a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games with Paraguay and most important and memorable of all, besides scoring many goals, at Deportivo Toluca he won titles in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 as well as the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2003.
Jose Cardozo. Modern day football is losing its soul but he is an example of an old school footballer who always gave his all, played with his heart on his sleeve and a smile on his face and is truly a credit and great of the game.
Andries Oosterveen is a Dutch football writer living in México and Toluca fan. A warm welcome to Golazo Mexicano!