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- Marcelo Salas, with ElÃas Figueroa and IvÃ¡n Zamorano, have been some of Chile's most recognized football players. Nicknamed El Matador (The Killer), he has a deft touch with his left foot with which has led to some spectacular goals.
Salas was a product of the Deportes Temuco youth team until his father took him to Santiago de Chile to be incorporated into Universidad de Chile. Salas debuted playing for Universidad de Chile in 1993 and became a starting player on January 4, 1994 against Cobreloa where he would also score a goal. Salas helped the team to win back to back titles in 1994 and 1995 leaving a trail of 74 goals which included a strong 1996 Copa Libertadores.
Later in 1996, Salas moved on to Argentina to play with River Plate of the Argentine first division, a move that was met with some criticism by the Argentine press as a Chile born player had never really had an impact playing in Argentina. The move was also criticised by Argentine great Diego Maradona as Salas was scouted by arch rival Boca Juniors prior to joining River. Salas quickly silenced his critics and won over Argentine fans, as a major contributor to one of the clubs greatest runs ever. From 1996-1998 Salas scored 26 goals in 51 games, helping River to win the Torneo de Apertura and the Torneo de Clausura in the 96-97 season and a Super Copa in 1997. These accomplishments would cement his legacy in Argentina as one of its greatest foreign born players earning the nickname, "El chilenoo Salas". During that time he also helped Chile in the World Cup qualification as the top scorer along Ivan Zamorano in the South American zone. In 1998, he participated with Chile in the World Cup making a strong performance with 4 goals in 4 matches.
In the same year on his strength of his performance both in Argentina and in the World Cup he would be sold to S.S. Lazio in Italy for US$18,000,000.
Salas played in Italy for five years, three with S.S. Lazio (1998-2001), a key catalyst in helping turn around a Lazio team that hadn't won a Scudetto since the 1973-1974 season. His first Serie A appearance was on October 4, 1998. He scored his first goal playing for Lazio a few days after the debut against Inter a club that included fellow Chilean Ivan Zamorano. With Lazio he won an Italian cup, a Cup Winners' Cup and a European Super Cup. In 2001 he was transferred to Juventus where Salas would endure the worst moments of his career; he was hampered by injuries, allowing him to participate in only 14 games and scoring just 2 goals.
In 2004 Salas was sold back to River Plate for but was unable to regain his old form as he was still hampered by injuries. Constantly in and out of the lineup and only able to score 17 goals in 43 matches Salas considered retiring from football, but decided he would make one final push with River. His return would spark River to a semi-final appearance in the Copa Libertadores (Salas scoring a hat-trick en route) but they lost to eventual champions Sao-Paulo.
In late July 2005, it was confirmed that he would return to his original football team, Universidad de Chile, and the never-ending love of the fans of Universidad de Chile for Salas was evident: he was given a warm reception even when he didn't play. Although the press was tough on him for being an injury-prone player (Salas played just 10 games in 2005), he carried Universidad de Chile to the cup finals. The final was decided with a shootout. After the retirement rumors of the summer of 2006, he started another campaign with Universidad de Chile and led the team to the final, but another penalty shootout denied the title. In December 2006 Salas was released from Universidad de Chile by the law-imposed administration. The move was fiercely criticised by the team supporters, who claim that Salas is the team soul and by far the team's best player and fan favourite.
Salas, after a 6 month layoff confirmed he would again return to his beloved team with a contract for a year and a half, thus continuing the whirl-wind that has been his career. At this point Salas also expressed interest in returning to the Chile National team where he had not played since 2005. Then, under the direction of Marcelo Bielsa, Salas participated in two exhibition matches held in Austria on September 7, and September 11 of 2007, and the first four games of the 2010 World Cup qualifying stage. He scored two goals against Uruguay on November 18, 2007, reaching the record of 37 goals for his country.
He is the owner of the new third level club UniÃ³n Temuco.
Salas announced his retirement on November 26th, 2008, at the age of 33.