EL ALMA DE UN EQUIPO

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Son muchos, casi todos en realidad, los grandes jugadores que se hicieron de abajo y llegaron a los puestos más altos del fútbol. Sin embargo, la ineludible temática de la obtención de la Copa Libertadores por parte de San Lorenzo y su próxima participación en el Mundial de Clubes hace que su nombre no pase desapercibido por su tremenda trascendencia. Juan Mercier jugó 10 años en la B Metropolitana, llegó a Primera, salió campeón, y ahora levantó el trofeo más importante de América. Quien escribe estas lineas no puede creer que no haya tenido más chances en la Selección como reemplazante natural de Mascherano.
 
El «Pichi» Juan Ignacio Mercier nació en 1980 en la ciudad de Campana. Comenzó a jugar en un equipo de su barrio y unos años después llegó a Villa Dálmine. En el «Violeta» dio sus primeros pasos en inferiores, pero con tan sólo 10 años se vio obligado a dejar de jugar y dedicarse a trabajar de albañil junto a su familia. Pasaron 7 años, pero la buena impresión que había dejado hizo que Flandria lo llame. Allí debutó el 7 de octubre de 1997 contra Deportivo Español: en las 2 temporadas que jugó en el Canario, disputó 57 partidos y logró anotar 5 goles.
Su siguiente club fue Deportivo Morón. El Gallo lo acobijó durante 2 años en los que el por entonces lateral derecho jugó 78 partidos y metió 4 goles. En 2004 lo compró Tristán Suarez, donde en 38 encuentros entonó 3 veces el grito sagrado. Quienes veían asiduamente el fútbol de ascenso remarcaban a Mercier por su juego, la entrega total y una gran estrategia táctica para ubicarse en la cancha. «Pichi» era el alma de sus equipos. Y hoy también lo es.
Platense fue sin dudas un punto de inflexión en su historia. Un equipo con historia en Primera División pero que por ese entonces era el más grande de la B Metropolitana. La vidriera ideal para progresar. Llegó en junio de 2005 y en su primera temporada en el «Calamar» logró el ascenso al Nacional B. Se fue en 2007 habiendo jugado 73 partidos y marcado 6 goles.
 
En aquel año, la carrera de Mercier se cruzaría con un personaje excéntrico si los hay. Un entrenador con el ADN del ascenso que eventualmente dirigía en Primera División, y llevaba a sus equipos innumerables cantidad de jugador surgidos de divisionales bajas. Hablamos de Ricardo Caruso Lombardi, quien en 2007 lo llevó a Argentinos Juniors y no se equivocó. De a poco, el pelado se adueñó del equipo. Ya jugando de volante central, compartió el mediocampo con varios jugadores como Roberto Battión, hasta encontrar a su media naranja futbolística, su Robin, su Garfunkel: Nestor Ortigoza. El argentino -hoy paraguayo-, jugaba. Mercier defendía, achicaba, metía, cubría los espacios y le daba indicaciones a sus compañeros. Su mejor nivel en el Bicho se vio en el Clausura 2010, donde dirigidos por Claudio Borghi, se consagraron campeones mostrando un gran juego. En el último partido, Mercier anotó de cabeza el gol del campeonato. El pelado, la cabeza del equipo, uno de los creadores intelectuales del órden de aquel Bicho, marcaba de ese modo con la cabeza su primer tanto en Primera.
 
Mientras, su trabajo era bien retribuido: en 2008 debutó en la Selección Nacional de la mano de Diego Armando Maradona, en un amistoso contra Costa Rica, disputado en San Juan. Luego, jugó 2 partidos más con la casaca celeste y blanca y formó parte de la lista previa al Mundial de Sudáfrica 2010, quedando fuera de los 23 definitivos que viajaron a tierras africanas.
El plantel del Bicho se desmanteló, pero él se quedó para jugar la Copa Libertadores. Luego de aquella frustración decidió emigrar para dar el salto de calidad económico, dejando de lado algunas otras propuestas más interesantes en cuanto a lo futbolístico. En julio de 2011 fue transferido por 1 millón de dólares al Al-Nassr de Arabia Saudita, en donde jugó 6 meses. En varias oportunidades declaró que no era para nada lo que el esperaba, y tuvo varias complicaciones con la cultura y el día a día, al que calificó de «cerrado y extremadamente conservador». Su siguiente escala fue el Al Wasl de Dubai, el equipo de Diego Armando Maradona, donde había otros argentinos. Allí disputó 9 partidos y no marcó goles: se fue en junio de 2012, al mismo tiempo que renunció El Diego.
 
En julio de 2012 volvió al país para vestir los colores de San Lorenzo, de donde se acababa de ir su viejo ladero Néstor Ortigoza. En un principio no estuvo bien físicamente y tuvo pocos minutos, pero con el correr de los meses se fue ganando un lugar, primero en el equipo y luego en el corazón del pueblo azulgrana. Fue bajo el mando de Juan Antonio Pizzi que volvió a tener el nivel que lo caracteriza, compartiendo la mitad de la cancha con Orti y teniendo delante suyo 3 jugadores de buen pie como Romagnoli, Piatti y Correa. De ese modo, fue clave en la obtención del Inicial 2013. Incluso, con su hija internada y muy preocupado por su estado de salud, logró abstraerse en los momentos importantes para dar el 100% en su club.
 
Si eso no alcanzaba para quedar grabado en la memoria de la hinchada, la Copa Libertadores recién obtenida hará que su cara aparezca en varios tatuajes y su nombre en varias filliales. El pelado fue pieza clave, y además de su habitual sacrificio, le agregó una cuota de participación en el juego del equipo. No sólo se dedicó a ocupar espacios y correr como ninguno, sino que comenzó a dar algunos pases largos y rematar desde afuera. En la semifinal contra Bolivar, marcó un golazo, su primero en el club de Boedo.
«Mercier es una bestia» se puede escuchar en cualquier charla futbolera, en un café, tribuna o cualquier lugar que reúna a un grupo de personas. El 5 ocupa todos los espacios de la cancha. Al ver un partido de su equipo, no es raro salir con una duda: ¿juegan con 2 Mercier? ¿O acaso Mercier es más rápido que Usaim Bolt? Realmente, es intentendible cómo el pelado está siempre en todos lados. Pero no es sólo que corre, sino que además es muy inteligente y lee el juego como pocos. Sabe siempre donde tiene que estar y donde va a estar la pelota. Así logra cubrir los lugares y hacer los relevos de todos sus compañeros. El Pichi, el alma de todo equipo, el pelado que salió campeón en la B Metro, en Primera, en América, y va por el mundo.
 
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Estudiante de Historia en la UBA. A veces oficio de periodista. Hincha y socio de Argentinos Juniors.

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