The ex-Sarmiento who became a heartthrob, met Maradona and is now on Netflix

If I had to film his story, he would choose a curly actor over six feet tall, and have him start the film with a scene of a muscle strain on a court in Belgium. Muddy ground after rain, the forward kicks and immediately cries from the rush of pain in his right leg. Next scene, years later, that limousine leg comes down and steps on red carpets.

Saúl Lisazo embodies the metaphor of the dream of an interrupted pasture, and of how fate proposed an unthinkable exit. A cursed injury ended up “blessing” his life. From 9 header to gallant with hypnotic arrival throughout Latin America.

He lived until the age of 17 in Los Toldos, province of Buenos Aires. The son of a school principal and a field worker, born on June 1, 1955, he grew up with five siblings, far from a television screen, amid the sound of the plows, the radio and his father’s football anecdotes. , who had played in the first of Estudiantes de La Plata. At 17 he left the payment with the project of studying Physical Education and the dream of a soccer player started at the Viamonte club in his city. “I’m going to play in Europe,” he swore to his friends.

It was tested in Atlanta. Fifth, fourth, third division, until during a trip to Brazil he became a boyfriend with a girl who helped him enter Juventus de São Paulo as a player. It would be the beginning of several passes, until the steering wheel.

At age 20, the one who “first played 10, but also worked as 9” received an offer from a Portuguese businessman to move to Belgium. There was a test match against Hercules de Alicante, Lisazo scored two goals and was hired by KSK Beveren, a club from the north of the country. He defended the shirt for three years and was champion of the League and the Belgian Cup along with the remembered goalkeeper Jean Marie Pffaf, who faced Argentina’s Maradoniana with his National Team in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

“In the Recopa de Europa we eliminated Inter Milan, but we lost in the semifinals with Barcelona,” he recalls. «I was five feet eight. I had a good head, but because of my bearing I never had the speed of a 9, it was more like a slow stride, the pass and the play ».

While the Belgian newspapers drew him as a Mexican cartoon with a wide mustache (“it was the imaginary of the Latin American for them”), Lisazo signed for KV Mechelen in Antwerp, also in Belgium. There he played for two years. Life in the pre-Internet era was hard, communications with Argentina were complex and uprooting was beginning to weigh on him. «The routine there was gray. A beautiful, respectful, orderly country, but something did not close me ».

In the midst of that discomfort, a misfortune slowly pushed him to acting. During a training session, after a storm, he went to kick a penalty kick and “burst” the quadriceps in his right leg. The emotional shock was immediate. “At that time there was no operation, I wanted to return to Argentina, and in a tug of war, a bit capricious, I left the club.” Injured, in 1982 he arrived in Sarmiento de Junín, one year on loan. In «the greens» he played alongside the then veteran Oscar «Pinino» Más. «We were in the First Division, we got to play the Junín classic against Mariano Moreno in the top flight for the first time, and later we descended», he recalls.

Despite the ruined quadriceps, Lisazo traveled to Barcelona and tried to talk with Jorge Cyterszpiler -then Diego Maradona’s representative- to arrange for the Belgian club -still owner of his pass- to give him freedom of action. He was out of luck and collapsed. “Injured it was useless, there was no sale possible, and I asked myself: ‘What am I going to do now?’ I had a severe depression, but modeling came as a rescue and a form of distraction. I met Daniel Rangoni, model and photographer, and after some photos I traveled from Barcelona to Madrid. I started playing indoor soccer while posing for El corte Inglés or the perfume Aramis ».

Without wanting to, he was going through retirement and heading towards his new profession. While everything was uncertainty and existential emptiness, he began to change his look and make friends with the idea of ​​another possible world of work. His failing right leg was giving him a curve. “The dream of my life was shattered at the age of 28, and if one is not prepared for what is coming it can be very hard. At that moment you don’t think with the newspaper on Monday, today I say that thank God I did not continue in football, he laughs.

As a model she lived in Greece for three months. Upon his return to Madrid, he studied acting at the Academy of Dramatic Art of the Argentine actress Cristina Rota. Buenos Aires was more and more a point that was moving away, while fate suggested that he continue turning the map. Then came a casting of Bacardi (the brand of alcoholic beverages) and that step began his relationship with Mexico. Drink in hand, voiced by an announcer with a very serious voice, he became the bon vivant of advertising with an exclusive contract for 11 years.

With that image of a gigolo in tow, his first telenovela in Aztec land was Amor de Nadie, in 1990, on Canal de las Estrellas. In that story, he played one of the three leading men of the soap opera icon Lucía Mendez and his rise on the Mexican screen was immediate. He learned to speak in neutral and later signed exclusivity with Televisa for fictional hits such as Acapulco, body and soul, For your love, I live for Elena and Prisoner of love. He also went through Telemundo in the remake of El Clon. Today it is possible to see it on Netflix in the romantic series Betty en NY, adaptation of the Colombian soap opera Yo soy Betty, la fea.

Partner of Latin stars such as Christian Bach, Victoria Ruffo and Kate Del Castillo, an admirer of Sean Connery, married since 1992 and father of two (Paula, 22, and Martín, 17), who was once nominated for «best villain “at the People in Spanish Awards carries a nickname from the Mexican media: they christened him” the Latin George Clooney. ” He does not stop dreaming that some Argentine producer will invite him for a while to record in the country to expand his squalid Argentine television footprint. It barely appeared in a local product, the telenovela El día que me quiero, with Grecia Colmenares and Osvaldo Laport, in 1994.

Just as Saúl did not break the first idyll and follows the River games from a distance, he did not forget the Argentine flavors either. Today he lives in Miami. But two decades ago he joined two compatriots – former Rosario Central footballer Mario Favaretto and doctor Ricardo Asch – and opened the Piantao restaurant, in the Plaza Cuicuilco area, in Mexico’s Federal District. In the gardens of a former factory, while a bandoneon, a voice and a dance partner gracefully accompany the sound of tango, you can taste everything from sweetbreads to alfajores.

-How did you go from soccer figurines to posters as a gallant?

-It was funny because I never stopped being who I was, I kept my feet on the ground despite having moments of fame and overwhelm. My career as a soccer player taught me a lot about what came next: how to take care of money, discipline, schedules, know that you are not irreplaceable or indispensable. In football, many end up speaking in the third person and something similar happens in acting. Being an actor was my second life and I took advantage of everything I had learned in the first, soccer.

-There is an old photo of you with Maradona. Did you get to play against him?

-I would see him in Cyterszpiler’s office, and he would say ‘hi kid’, nothing more. But I can say that I played a game for his team: it was in 2002, at the farewell to Carlos Hermosillo in Mexico. They told him who I was and he joked: “Come on, Saúl, introduce me to an actress.”

-Which environment is more complex, soccer or TV?

-They’re both fucking professions. Many interests are handled and there is a certain frivolity in relationships: sometimes they make you feel like they are your friends when you are at the highest point. And if the product is you and you have a certain recognition, it is difficult to bear being told “no” at a casting or at a club. The same for both environments, it is common to hear “you’re old”. That is why I think my stage as a gallant is over and it is time to look for roles in the cinema.

Like Eric Cantona, the former striker who shines on Netflix in the series Inhuman Resources, Lisazo broke the mold on the way from locker room to dressing room. The eternal «Saulito» for the residents of Los Toldos now plays golf and outlines a life linked to less stiff roles, such as his leading role in September, A Silent Cry, the Guatemalan film by Keneth Muller that earned him praise for his character as a father raising his daughter alone after a terrorist attack.

“I always say that what you do not have in talent must be made up for with work,” he concludes on the verge of taking a plane to Spain, while machine-gunning with photos from his archive in black and white that immortalize that forward today unrecognizable in his features. «It is true that my dream of playing for the National Team or for the River was not fulfilled. But I went for others. And I am proud.

Por: Marina Zucchi.