Juan Sara was heartbroken when he left Dundee as a player in 2003 – now he’s eyeing up a return as manager.
Dens Park gaffer James McPake shouldn’t be too concerned by that statement, however, as the South American is still working his way up the ranks in Argentine football.
Currently assistant manager at second-tier promotion hopefuls Estudiantes de Buenos Aires, Sara has great memories of his time in dark blue and hopes to return one day soon.
In an exclusive interview with the Tele, Sara said: “Dundee is one of the most important clubs in my life.
“I would love to go back to Dundee. People always show they loved this time and always remember it. I’ve always said we’d love to go back but it is not easy with football to do so.
“I am coaching just now and I have a hope that one day, one of my dreams is to go to Europe and, hopefully, be Dundee manager.”
Sara arrived in the city as the Bonetti era got into full swing at Dens Park 20 years ago, coming in alongside fellow Argentine Fabian Caballero to form a potent front line.
Immediately, the striker felt at home in Scotland.
Speaking from his home in Buenos Aires, he said: “I have great memories. The people were great, I felt at home in Dundee. It was really comfortable.
“The people in the city were very friendly and I made a lot of friends in the team. There were a few Argentines and Italians as well as Scottish guys.
“I had been playing in Paraguay and doing really well for a big team. I had the same agent as Fabian Caballero and Dundee were looking for a striker. I had the chance to go to Portugal but I chose Dundee because I wanted to play in the UK and the football there suited my style.
“Playing with other Argentines made it easy and to have an Italian coach when I spoke Italian was great for me, too. It was the perfect place for me.
“We started the season well, I scored goals and it went well. I was one of the top scorers in the league in my first season with 17 goals.
“Straight away I noticed it was a physical game, tough football with long balls and the ball in the air but we tried to play another type of football. We tried to play with the ball on the grass and more combination football.
“I really felt good in that team and the way we played.”
Then a 23-year-old, Sara made a strong start to life in dark blue with three goals in his opening nine games before etching his name into Dundee history books with a derby hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Dens Park.
“The hat-trick against United was one of my best moments,” he added.
“At that time I didn’t realise what I had done! It was the first derby I played in, we won 3-0 and I scored all three. I don’t know how many times that will have happened.
“People always remember that match. I didn’t realise how big it was. For the fans it was so important and I still get messages on facebook from Dundee fans about it!
“I scored at Celtic Park, scored against Rangers and a lot of goals but I think the hat-trick against United was one I will always remember.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere. It was amazing with the stadiums so close and to be able to walk down the street was a great experience.”
As was the chance to play with one of his heroes, Claudio Caniggia, after the Argentina World Cup star arrived as replacement for injured Caballero.
“It was a dream for me to play with Claudio,” said Sara. “I didn’t believe it when he signed!
“He knew Ivano and Dario and when Fabian got injured they brought him to Dundee.
“I couldn’t believe I would have the opportunity to play with him. Both being strikers, we played together up front and it was a dream for me.
“He was so easy to play with but not just him – Fabian, Beto (Carranza), Georgi (Nemsadze), Gavin (Rae), there were so many good players.”
Sara’s departure, however, was more nightmare than dream as the club tumbled into administration in 2003.
Ending on a sour note, however, doesn’t taint the Argentine’s memories.
He said: “Leaving was disappointing. I really felt at home and to leave in the way we did was very difficult for us.
“We lost a lot of money and were very upset. My wife was pregnant at the time and it was difficult being in a different country with no job and no living. I didn’t know what to do. There were a lot of players in that situation.
“However, it was one of the best times of my career, in Dundee. All I can say is good things about the people in Dundee.”