Archive for December 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006 by Paul Grech
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.