Diego Valeri, the greatest of MLS's Argentine midfielders, returns home

Diego Valeri is leaving the Portland Timbers after nine seasons and returning to his boyhood club in Argentina, Lanus.

Valeri, 35, has been arguably the best in a long line of Argentine midfielders who came to MLS and dominated the league over the last two decades.

He leaves as the Timbers' regular-season leader in goals scored (86) and assists (91) and ranks second in team history in games played (262). He went with Portland to three MLS Cups, winning in 2015, and his three MLS Best XI selections are tied for most over the nine seasons he was in the league.

“I do not believe there has been a more impactful Designated Player signing in the history of MLS than Diego Valeri,” said Timbers owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. “He changed what clubs looked for in a DP -- not a brand to put fans in the seats and sell sponsorships, but a rising European-level talent who chose to make America his home and legacy. In Portland, he has meant everything to us on the pitch and in the community."

Valeri sought out a move from Lanus, a Buenos Aires suburb, for a safer home for his wife Florencia and young daughter, Constanza, after their car was carjacked in 2012. The Valeris embraced their new home and became active members of the Portland community. Diego came to be known as "St. Valeri."

“With his mastery of the ball, ‘El Maestro’ bestowed with his game and competitive nature what Portland needed to always be one of the most competitive teams in the league,” said Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese. “It will be a strange feeling to not see him in our locker room. My wish as a head coach was to see him retire with the Timbers, but sometimes soccer works out in different ways. I wish Diego all the best in his return to Lanus, the club that saw him grow, and to his beautiful family, Florencia and Connie, in their return to Argentina. His humility and his soccer will always be synonymous to the Portland Timbers.”

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