Diego Perez bears all the hallmarks of the classic Uruguayan midfielder with his tireless work ethic and willingness to battle for the cause. His intelligence, tactical awareness and personality add further value to his stock, while his effectiveness in winning back possession has made him something of a rock of the midfield for his team-mates.
A Montevideo native, Perez began his career in Defensor Sporting’s youth system. His name resonated in Uruguayan football circles even before he made his Primera Division debut, having played a key role in Uruguay’s U-20 team that made it to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Nigeria 1999.
Uruguay managed a fourth-place finish in West Africa and Perez played in five of La Celeste’s seven games. He missed out on the last 16 win over Paraguay through suspension while coach Victor Pua decided against using him in the third-place play-off.
In 2001 it was Pua himself who handed Perez his full international debut against Bolivia in Uruguay’s opening game at that year’s Copa America in Colombia. Nevertheless, he was left out of Pua’s plans towards the end of the qualification campaign for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, being sidelined for both legs of the play-off against Australia and ultimately excluded from the squad for the finals.
2003 was a peculiar year for Perez, with the boost of a move to Penarol tempered with the disappointment of disappearing from the national team with the arrival of Juan Ramon Carrasco. His return came about in 2004 when Jorge Fossati took him to the Copa America in Peru, after which a transfer to Monaco beckoned.
Having featured under Fossati at the tail end of the unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, including the first leg of another play-off with Australia, it was no surprise that he was involved in Oscar Tabarez’s set up from the very start.
On the back of solid performances for Monaco, Perez maintained his presence in the side, playing six out of seven games at the Copa America Venezuela 2007, his only absence coming in the third-place play-off with Mexico.
As expected, he also featured as a starter in the campaign to reach South Africa, making 13 appearances, although missing several through injury, most notably the first encounter with Brazil and the play-off second leg with Costa Rica. As things stand, Perez seems certain to add to his haul of 50 caps for La Celeste in South Africa.