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Friday, 15 December 2006

3995: He Should Do Well: Emiliano In

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by : Paul Grech

Tom Huddlestone

Highly rated English U21 who can play either in the centre of defence or in midfield, Huddleston hasn’t managed to find enough space at Tottenham. Still very young, many expect him to develop into a fine leader. Yet, given his experience at Tottnehman, he can only be classified as a maybe,

Aaron Lennon

The star of England’s World Cup showing, Lennon has developed into an excellent player much quicker than anyone expected. With David Beckham now out of the picture, the scene is set for him make that role his. At Tottenham, he remains their main creative outlet and who, contrary to most other wingers, is remarkably consistent. Signed for just, he is definitely a hit.

Andy Reid

Highly rated winger when he moved from Nottingham Forest, he never made the step up despite his undoubted talent. Often accused of being overweight, he was sold to Charlton last summer. A miss.

Paul Robinson

Signed for just £1.5 million from Leeds following their relegation from the Premiership, Robinson has developed into the best English goalkeeper and a regular for the national team. He’s made some unfortunate mistakes – the most recent and high profile of which came against Croatia – yet has had the mental strength to bounce back from those blunders. Hit.

Wayne Routledge

Having impressed for Crystal Palace in their season long stay in the Premirship, Routledge eventually got his wish with the move to neighbours Tottenham. A broken foot early on and the emergence of Lennon have limited his opportunities, forcing him into a couple of loan moves to build confidence. The impression is that there is no place for him at Spurs, so this particular transfer has to be considered a miss.

Reto Ziegler

At eighteen, Ziegler made his debut on the left-hand side of Spur’ midfield and immediately impressed for his skilful use of the ball. Yet, after a good first season he was sent out on loan first at Hamburg and then to Wigan, failing to impress on both occasions. Now back at Tottenham, chances are being limited due to the arrival of Steed Malbranuqe. His inability to capitalise on his potential makes him a maybe bordering on the miss category. Up till two years ago no Argentine had ever played for Liverpool. Then came Mauricio Pellegrino, followed by Gabriel Palleta and now Emiliano Insua, the latter being a player who will move to Merseyside from Boca Juniors as from the coming January.

Apart from their nationality, those three have another factor in common: they’re all defenders. Which strengthens the impression that Benitez particularly appreciates the qualities of Argentine defenders. After all, his Valencia side was built on a solid backline that was anchored by Pellegrino and Fabio Ayala.

The latest transfer is also the fruit of another of Benitez’s beliefs: that in Argentina you can still pick up talented young players for relatively little. And it is hard to fault such reasoning. How much would an English centre back who had a World U20 championship to his name cost? Certainly much more than the £2 million that Benitez spent to take Gabriel Paletta to Anfield. It would certainly take much more to buy a local left-back, given their relative scarcity, yet Insua has been bought for less than a million.

What remains to be seen is whether these players can adapt to the English game. Pellegrino, for instance, was a massive failure although that can largely be put down to the fact that he joined Liverpool when he was away past his best. Paletta is still being slowly introduced although his sloppiness against Galatasaray was hardly encouraging and he seems to be overly physical in his tackling.

Even so, it is too early to judge him. From a regular (and a star) at Banfield he’s had to adapt to a completely new culture and having to prove himself all over again.

A similar period of adaptation is to be expected of Insua. Highly rated at home, his transfer led Boca president Romano Aguilar to ask FIFA to step in so that the big European sides are stopped from cherry picking their best talent.

It is an understandable reaction for Boca are also on the verge of losing Gonzalo Higuan and Gago, two of the continent’s brightest prospects. Insua might not yet be on their level but, then again, he is a couple of years younger. Nominally a central defender who, unlike Paletta relies on technique rather than strength, Insua is likely to start life in England as a left-back given his talent to play with his left foot.

At 17, he is still very young. Yet Liverpool are confident in his abilities so much that they’re expecting to be in line for his senior debut by the end of the season. If that were to happen, and Insua were to shine, it could mean more heart ache for Aguilar and the rest of Argentine football with more clubs turning their attention to Argentina in search of the next star.

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Antony Melvin

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