3355: Pen Portrait: Fabio Aurelio (L
by : Paul Grech
Mention the words ‘Brazilian left-back’ and thoughts will immediately turn to Roberto Carlos. The Real Madrid (for now) man has monopolised the position to such an extent that there doesn’t seem to be anyone else capable of playing that role.
This makes it hardly surprising that fellow Brazilian Fabio Aurelio is still largely unknown in England despite playing for Valencia.
There is, however, another reason for his lack of prominence: injuries. A broken leg suffered at the start of the 2001-02 season saw him miss the club’s best campaign in their history as the side then managed by Rafael Benitez won the Liga title and the UEFA Cup.
Further minor injuries – as well as lack of faith by the managers who followed Benitez on Valencia’s bench - hampered his chances to establish himself in subsequent seasons with a good number of appearances coming on the left of midfield rather than the left-back position he prefers.
That, despite all this, he was rumoured to interest Real Madrid, Villareal and Manchester United before opting to join Liverpool when his contract with Valencia came to an end shows just how talented he is.
As you would expect of a Brazilian, he is an extremely skilful and technical player with a killer left-foot. At Valencia, he use to take most of their free-kicks exploiting the strength of his shot to maximum effect. He might not be in Lyon’s Juninho’s class but isn’t far off.
What makes Aurelio atypical as a Brazilian is that he has expressed his preference of playing at left-back rather than in a more advanced position in midfield. This is slightly surprising not only because of the characteristic Brazilian desire to play as much forward as possible but also due to the fact that, despite being a decent enough tackler, the ability to defend isn’t considered to be his major strength.
There is, however, a reason for his preference in that starting from a deep lying position allows him to overlap and join attacks. Which is why Rafael Benitez opted to sign him.
At Liverpool, Aurelio will not only offer a high-quality alternative to John Arne Riise – something that wasn’t the case with either Djimi Traore or Stephen Warnock – but also allow the Spanish manager’s desire to make use of wing play as much as possible.
With either Harry Kewell or Mark Gonazales playing ahead of him it is easy to envisage the wingers cutting inside and Aurelio moving forward to exploit the space created.
You get the feeling that the side Benitez is shaping will present plenty of opportunities for Peter Crouch to use his height as well as play at a very high tempo much like his Valencia sides.