Alberto Pedro Spencer Herrera (6 December 1937 – 3 November 2006) was an Ecuadorian-Uruguayan footballer who played as a forward, regarded as the best Ecuadorian footballer of all time. He is probably best known for his still-standing record for scoring the most goals in the Copa Libertadores, the most important club tournament in South America. He was elected the 20th best South American footballer of the 20th century in a poll by the IFFHS in 2004. He was known as "Cabeza Mágica" (Spanish for magic head).
Alberto Spencer photographed for El Gráfico
|Full name||Alberto Pedro Spencer Herrera|
|Date of birth||6 December 1937|
|Place of birth||Ancón, Santa Elena, Ecuador|
|Date of death||3 November 2006(aged 68)|
|Place of death||Cleveland, Ohio, United States|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
He was an ambidextrous striker with lethal pace, off-the-ball movement, heading and balance skills, and excellent finishing, that tore defences to shreds for over a decade. After his retirement in 1973, he lived in Montevideo, Uruguay. In 1982, he was appointed consul of Ecuador in Uruguay.
Spencer suffered a heart attack on 13 September 2006 during a routine checkup with his cardiologist. He died on 3 November 2006 in the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. His line survives through his Chilean wife María Teresa, his children Alberto, Walter, Jacqueline and his grandchildren.
Alberto Spencer began his career at age 15 playing for Everest. He jumped to fame when he was scouted while playing on loan for Barcelona SC against Peñarol in July 1959. Peñarol's manager, Hugo Bagnulo, asked his scout 'Pibe' Ortega to attempt to sign him after the game was over. He was soon transferred to Peñarol where he amassed three Libertadores Cups and two Intercontinental Cups, as well as several Uruguayan league titles. After his second Intercontinental Cup, he was twice sought by Inter, but ultimately Peñarol's board would not sell him.
On the international front, Spencer holds the unique distinction of being the only goalscorer, capped by two different countries simultaneously: Ecuador, and Uruguay. He 'switched' shirts no less than four times. He played for Uruguay against England (2-1) in a friendly match at the legendary Wembley Stadium and scored, making him the first Ecuadorian-born player to score in that stadium.
His name was omitted from FIFA's, and Pelé's list of 100 greatest living players. This caused outrage among many South American journalists who believed greats like Spencer, were being ignored in favour of commercialism. David Mellor of the Evening Standard notably blasted FIFA in his reporting of the incident.
Although widely considered one of the best South American players of all time, he still remains largely an unknown figure in Europe. This is presumably due to his having never participated in a World Cup or playing in Europe. Similar fates awaited other greats such as Alfredo Di Stéfano (who, while called up for the 1962 tournament, did not play due to injury) and George Best, though both are far more known due to their domestic careers with Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively.
Spencer still maintains the South American club record in Copa Libertadores, with his tally of 54 goals between 1960 and 1972, playing for Everest of Guayaquil, Barcelona of Guayaquil, and Peñarol (Uruguay). During that period, he walked away as winner of the competition three times (1960, 1961, 1966 all of them playing for Peñarol (Uruguay)) and was winner of the Intercontinental Cup twice, beating Eusebio's Benfica and Real Madrid, and was runner-up once. In fact, his Intercontinental goal tally is only one goal behind the all-time record of his more famous contemporary, Pelé.
Spencer was also four times the leading scorer of Uruguay's League with Peñarol, helping them to win the Uruguayan championship eight times during his 12-year stay. Throughout his professional career, he scored a grand total of 450 goals, surpassing 500, if friendlies were taken into account.
- In one of the exhibition tours that Peñarol did in Colombia, one of the Millonarios players, Flaco Néstor Rossi, launched a horror-tackle on Spencer that went unpunished. Soon afterward, one of Spencer's friends in Peñarol, Jose Pepe Sasía, ran after him, grabbed his neck and said:
|“||The next time you hit the blackie I will kill you, because he is the one that feeds us||”|
- Pelé, interview with Pablo Forlan said:
|“||Someone that headed better than me was Spencer. I was good (in heading), but he was spectacular heading the ball. In general, he would do it with a burst, but without actually sprinting.||”|
- Spencer was red carded twice in his career at a league match defending Peñarol. Three days later the team had to travel for a Copa Libertadores match, but Spencer didn't go, saying that he was too ashamed because of his expulsion. The other one, was on a crucial qualifying match for 1966 World Cup against Chile, because he hit Humberto Cruz on his face, in 1965, in a final match in Lima, Perú
- His debut at Peñarol was in a friendly against Argentine team Atlanta. Peñarol won 6-2 with a Spencer hat-trick.
- Upon Spencer's death, the Federación Ecuatoriana de Fútbol decided to change the name of the Estadio Modelo in Guayaquil to Estadio Modelo Alberto Spencer Herrera in his honour.
Only counting official matches for Peñarol and Barcelona SC
Serie A: 1
Copa Libertadores top scorer: 2
Primera División top scorer: 4
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alberto Spencer.|
- IFFHS' Century Elections Archived March 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine - rsssf.com - by Karel Stokkermans, RSSSF, 2000.
- Rob Smyth (24 March 2010). "The worst English champions ever (sort of)?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- "Better than Pele?". Estadio. 2006-11-15. Archived from the original on 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2006-11-11.