Wembley, February 1998. That for most within Europe, would have been the first time they’d heard and most likely seen a glimpse of what El Matador was capable of.
In what was a warm up game building up to the 1998 World Cup Finals in France. Salas scored both goals in a comfortable 2-0 victory which coincidently saw Michael Owen making his England debut.
Total overshadowed by the performance of Salas, who scored a wonderful first half volley and sealed the win in the second half from the penalty spot.
Growing up Salas was a product of the Deportes Temuco youth team and it wasn’t long before he was snapped up by Universidad de Chile after a successful trial. In the 3 years he spent there he became their main marksmen and helped his side win two league titles.
His form in Chile caught the eye of Argentinian powerhouses River Plate and they were able to lure Salas to the Argentinian capital in a move that drew criticism from some parts of the media and from a certain Diego Maradona.
This came as no player from Chile had ever really left their mark in the Argentinian league and River Plates arch rivals Boca Juniors had also expressed their interest in signing Salas so his decision to Join River was met with vocal criticism from Maradona and the press.
Following his move Salas let his football do the talking and with his prowess in front of goal quickly banished any doubts anyone had over the move. Salas scored a hatful of goals in his debut season and helped the club secure the Torneo de Apertura. A second and even more successful season followed with River wrapping up the Clausura, Apertura and Supercopa Sudamericana titles in which Salas was an integral part.
It’s no surprise that Salas’ form in Argentina saw him playing for the national side and with his performance against England at Wembley just before the World Cup only enhanced his stock.
This had given Europe’s big suiters the heads up before the World Cup and with interest circulating from the likes of Manchester United, Lazio and Barcelona to name but a few it would be no surprise with the right amount of cash on the table Salas would be applying his tenacity in front of goal somewhere in Europe.
Chile's World Cup campaign would go as far as the last 16 after being knocked out by tournament favourites Brazil, a game in which Salas scored Chiles only goal in a 4-1 defeat. Salas also made his mark in the group stage scoring twice in a memorable 2-2 draw with Italy as well as in the 1-1 draw with Austria.
It would be S.S Lazio that secured Salas’ signature after the World Cup forking out a reported 26.5 million for the Chilean forward.
Salas spent 3 years with the Rome club leading them to the first Scudetto since 1974 during the 99-00 season. Salas was Lazio’s leading goal scorer in the league that season and formed a formidable partnership with Simone Inzaghi. Lazio completed a historic domestic double that season also beating Internazionale 2-1 on aggregate in the Coppa Italia Final and beating Manchester United 1-0 a game in which Salas scored the only goal in the European Super Cup Final.
In his time at Lazio, Salas proved he was worth the price tag also collecting a Cup Winners Cup medal along the way and endured himself to the fans as one of their most flamboyant and deadly strikers in recent history.
In 2001 following his title winning season with Lazio, Salas moved North to Turin as Juventus paid around 28 million for his services, a deal which also saw Darko Kovacevic move in the other direction.
This would prove to be a difficult move for Salas as he was hampered by injury and only managed a handful of appearances in a 2-year spell.
With his ability to lead the line for Lazio and steer them towards their first title in over 25 years it will always be a case of what could have been for Salas at Juventus.
Had he been able to stay fit and get a consistent run in the first team we may have seen an even more prolific spell for Salas in Serie A.
Salas ended his torment in Turin and returned to Argentina, once again leading the line for River. Unfortunately, there was no upturn in fortune as Salas still found himself hampered by injuries, although he did manage 17 goals in a 2-year spell.
In order to create a fairy tale ending Salas returned to his childhood club Universidad de Chile, a loan deal from Juventus. Although the media were tough on Salas for picking up many injuries the move aloud Salas to play in front of the La U fans until he decided to retire in 2008.
Salas was without doubt one of the most potent and technically gifted players to come out of Chile and is widely regarded as one of the best to have played for the La Roja.
Even winning titles in Europe and playing in successful World Cup campaigns Salas without injuries later in his career could have reached even loftier heights.