It seems like Jefferson Farfan has been on the world football scene forever, so it's hard to believe that he's only 26 years old. He made his first team debut with Alianza Lima in Peru at 16, started scoring goals at 17, and guided them to a league title at 18 before being sold to PSV Eindhoven. He did some more winning and scoring there before moving on to Schalke 04, where he's done a fair bit of scoring and winning. Peru aren't expected to do much in this year's Copa America, but that doesn't make Farfan any less interesting.
Despite their large population, natural resources, location, and trade agreements, Peru's economy isn't great, and as a result, neither are their football teams. Some of the greatest footballers come from poverty, but they eventually get snapped up by big clubs in their late teens and molded into stars. Peru's clubs aren't doing that at the rate that they should with their population, and as a result, Farfan is almost in a class of his own on his team.
That lack of talent around him didn't stop him from becoming South America's leading goal scorer in 2006 World Cup qualifying, but he didn't do any scoring in the last World Cup qualifying cycle. Thanks to a hotel party scandal, Farfan was out of the national team picture for a few months. He's back in the team now, but he has not yet come back to his scoring ways. It won't be easy for him to do so in Copa America, but there's no doubt he has the talent to pull it off.
Farfan scored an incredible 57 league goals in his four years at PSV Eindhoven as he helped the team to four consecutive Eredivisie titles and one Dutch Cup title. At the end of the 2007-08 season, he was sold to Schalke 04 in Germany for the hefty price of 10 million Euros, and he's continued to shine there.
While his first two seasons were a major success in a Schalke shirt, Farfan struggled in the Bundesliga this year as Schalke had an absolutely terrible season domestically. They were, however, brilliant in Europe, with Farfan being no exception. In Schalke's 10 UEFA Champions League games, Farfan managed four goals as the team made it all the way to the semifinals of the competition. Though they were thoroughly defeated by Manchester United, most pundits cited Farfan as the only reason Schalke ever had a chance. When his teammates could actually win the ball back, he looked dangerous.
Farfan can play as both a winger and as a forward in multiple formations. His most common deployment for Schalke has been on the right side of a 4-4-2, while he usually plays on the right side of a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 for Peru. He has played as the center forward in a 4-3-3 for his country before, but that seems unlikely in this case. Both him and Claudio Pizarro are apparently fit and healthy, so look for Pizarro to occupy the center forward spot with Farfan and youngster Luis Advincula on either side of him.
Name: Jefferson Farfan
Club Team: Schalke (Germany, Bundesliga)
Chances Copa America increases transfer interest: High. His contract is running out at Schalke and they appear to be going in reverse. Following the sales of Rafinha and Ivan Rakitic, it wouldn't be stunning if Farfan was next.
Role with team: Right forward in a probable 4-3-3.