During his pomp, Diego Tristan brought fear to Europe’s most rigid defences. Nicknamed ‘The Lizard’ due to his slippery evasive style of loosing defenders, Tristan became a cult figure for his beloved club RC Deportivo de La Coruña throughout the earlies 2000’s.
Like many cult club figures, the absurdly talented striker was certainly no angel. Important matches took places only after mammoth casino blowouts, one such session saw him lose over £300,000 – hardly the required match preparation coach Javier Irureta wild have preferred.
Born in Seville, Tristán began his professional career with Real Betis’ B side before moving to RCD Mallorca. It was here that the forward would grab the attention of his future club when scoring 18 goals in 35 appearances l during the 1999/2000 La Liga season.
To his delight it would be Real Madrid who made an opening bid. With Spain’s premier club ready to strike out a deal the move was scuppered when a certain Florentino Perez wrestled the presidency off Lorenzo Sanz. Hoping to infuse his very own ‘Galactico’ flavour into the team, Madrid’s interest quickly faded.
Enter surprise league champions Deportivo who signed him for a bargain £8million. Armed with the attacking talent of Juan Carlos Valerón, Djalminha, and Fran, Tristan would not be short on firepower.
At the time The Galician’s were already blessed with one of Europe’s top strikers, Dutchman Roy Maakay. Tristan would need to be outstanding to oust the Hitman in order to fit into the clubs sole striker formation. A situation often fixed when the two played up front together – when it worked, it was an unstoppable combination.
Despite often being reduced to the role of backup, Tristan still netted an impressive 19 goals as Blanquiazules finished 2nd to a resurgent Real Madrid in the league.
Whilst many clubs were well of his baggage, it didn’t stop Europe’s elite sides from tracking him with the offer of first team football. The the 01/02 season however saw the skilful striker become the clubs first choice, claiming the La Liga top scorer award come the season end with 21.
The enigmatic forward really did have it all, pace, power, skill and the ability to beat a man one on one with ease.
His goals would later help Depor claim a Copa del Rey in 2002, the Supercopa de España in 2002, and, while injury scuppered his form and fitness, contribute to his sides 2003/04 Champions League run.
It was this season that should have been Tristan’s moment in the sun, however injuries and loss of confidence blighted it. Deportivo would claim the greatest win in their history that year when the side overturned a 4-1 first leg deficit against AC Milan to claim an outrageous 4-0 win in the return leg – Tristan however, painfully never really played a part in it.
Undeniably, Tristán’s six seasons at Deportivo were to be his most successful; The striker would soon try and recapture his magic that saw him net 78 goals in 177 league appearances for Blanquiazules’, by moving back to Mallorca then later West Ham United in 2008.
Despite an outstanding free-kick for the Gianfranco Zola managed Hammers during his short tenure, Tristan was clearly a spent force.