Ayala in 2018
|Full name||Roberto Fabián Ayala|
|Date of birth||14 April 1973|
|Place of birth||Paraná, Argentina|
|Height||1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)|
|Argentina (field assistant)|
|Ferro Carril Oeste|
|1991–1993||Ferro Carril Oeste||72||(1)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Roberto Fabián Ayala (locally [roˈβeɾto faˈβjan aˈʒala]; born 14 April 1973), nicknamed El Ratón (English: "The Mouse"), is an Argentine former footballer who played as a centre back for the Argentina national football team, as well as Valencia and Real Zaragoza in Spain, Milan and Napoli in Italy and River Plate in his native Argentina.
Regarded as one of the best central defenders of his generation, he stood out for his leadership and ability in the air throughout his career. Ayala captained the Argentina in a record 63 matches. He played in three FIFA World Cups and made a total of 115 international appearances, behind only Javier Mascherano, Javier Zanetti and Lionel Messi in terms of international appearances. He inherited the nickname El Ratón from the Argentine 1974 World Cup player Rubén Ayala, although they are not related.
Italian side Parma brought the Argentine defender to Europe. However, the club, having already used their quota of three non-EU players, loaned him to Napoli, who purchased 50% of his rights on a co-ownership deal. Ayala was bought by Milan at the end of the 1997–98 season and played there for two seasons until Valencia purchased him for £6.25 million.
After signing with Valencia in the summer of 2000, Ayala made 275 appearances during a seven-year spell at the club.
On 24 September 2000, Ayala made his debut for Valencia in a 3–0 La Liga win over Numancia. He soon established himself as a first choice central defender for Los Che and started alongside compatriot Mauricio Pellegrino in the 2001 UEFA Champions League final, where Valencia lost 5–4 to Bayern Munich after a penalty shootout. He was later named best defender for the 2000–01 tournament.
The following season, Ayala was part of the Valencia team that won the 2001–02 La Liga title. He scored the opening goal of a 2–0 defeat of Málaga which secured the championship on 5 May 2002. In 2003–04, Valencia again won the La Liga title and beat Marseille 2–0 in Gothenburg to win the UEFA Cup.
During his time with Valencia, he was widely regarded as one of the finest central defenders in the world and is considered to be one of the club's all-time legends.
In August 2006, Ayala was not offered a new contract by sporting director Amedeo Carboni. On 7 February 2007, he announced he would join regional rivals Villarreal at the end of the season, however before having played for Villarreal, he joined Real Zaragoza on a three-year deal on 14 July 2007. The buy-out clause in his contract with Villarreal was €6 million (£4.8 million) which was paid in full by Real Zaragoza.
On 3 May 2008, Ayala scored his first goal for Real Zaragoza in the 94th minute against Deportivo de La Coruña to lead Zaragoza to a 1–0 victory. Zaragoza, however, were relegated to the Segunda División. On 22 November 2008, Ayala scored his second goal for Zaragoza, in the 73rd of a 3–0 win over Eibar. On 29 February 2009, he scored his third goal coming in the 54th minute against Real Murcia as Zaragoza won the match 4–1.
In January 2010, Ayala's contract with Zaragoza was terminated by mutual consent.
Ayala played for Argentina at the 1996 Summer Olympics, winning the silver medal. He played for Argentina in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and was a non-playing squad member in the 2002 competition due to a last minute injury moments before their first match against Nigeria. He was then selected as an over-age player as Argentina won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Ayala played an integral part in the Argentine squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He played brilliantly throughout the tournament and was picked as a member of the All Star Team. In the quarter-final against Germany, he scored a header that gave Argentina the 1–0 lead, although his side lost the penalty shootout after a 1–1 draw, with Ayala's spot kick being saved by Jens Lehmann.
One of the best defenders in Argentina's history, on 7 February 2007 Ayala became the most capped player of the national team (most as captain), beating his friend Diego Simeone, in a friendly victory 1–0 against France played in the Stade de France in Paris.
On 5 June 2007, in a friendly against Algeria, Ayala captained Argentina for a record 58th international, having equalled Diego Maradona's mark of 57 in the 1–1 draw against Switzerland in Basel on 2 June.
On 17 July 2007, two days after playing in the 2007 Copa América final, which ended in a 3–0 defeat to Brazil, and during which he scored an own goal, Ayala announced his retirement from international football. Ayala stated, "it has nothing to do with what happened in the final of the Copa América." Javier Zanetti took over from him as captain.
On 30 December, Ayala retired from professional football. On 21 December 2011, Ayala was hired as a football coordinator at Racing Club. In September 2013, a new management arrived, and Ayala was released on 19 September 2013.
In December 2013, Ayala was hired as a technical director / sport director for Valencia, where he was going to be the responsible for the whole South American area. The role also involved him scouting in that area to find young talents. He left the club in the middle of 2015.
Regarded as one of the best and most accomplished defenders of his generation, Ayala was mainly known for his ability in the air and tenacious tackling, and also stood out for his leadership and consistency throughout his career. A complete defender, he was also noted for his speed, ability on the ball, and passing accuracy as a centre-back.
Ayala is married to Veronica, and has four children: Francisco, Sofía, Pilar and Martina.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|Argentina||League||Cup||League Cup||South America||Total|
|1991–92||Ferro Carril Oeste||Primera División||18||0|
|1993–94||River Plate||Primera División||16||0|
|Italy||League||Coppa Italia||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|Spain||League||Copa del Rey||Supercopa de España||Europe||Total|
|2007–08||Real Zaragoza||La Liga||33||1|
Correct as of 14 June 2009
|Argentina national team|
|1||19 February 1998||Mendoza, Argentina||Romanian League||2–1||Unofficial Friendly|
|2||7 September 1999||Porto Alegre, Brazil||Brazil||2–4||Friendly|
|3||26 April 2000||Maracaibo, Venezuela||Venezuela||4–0||World Cup 2002 Qualifying|
|4||13 July 2004||Piura, Peru||Uruguay||4–2||2004 Copa América|
|5||12 November 2005||Geneva, Switzerland||England||2–3||Friendly|
|6||16 November 2005||Doha, Qatar||Qatar||3–0||Friendly|
|7||30 June 2006||Berlin, Germany||Germany||1 – 1 (2–4 PS)||2006 FIFA World Cup|