Scouting isn’t rocket science! Every time a Premier League side signs a good foreign player the nation goes crazy. Who is this mystery guy? Where did he come from? Anyone with a decent knowledge of the game outside the UK would have known that the likes of Santi Cazorla, Oscar and Papisse Demba Cissé were likely to succeed, and there are plenty more of them out there. So who’s the next “secret” star to watch out for? Who is the next Cabaye?
Now here’s a player who, through the course of the season, has sent me from pillar to post as I try to work out just how highly I rate him. With a move to Anfield apparently done and dusted, it’s time for me to make a final decision so I can spend next season seeing if my judgement was accurate or not!
Around Christmas I thought made a bit of a mistake about Iago Aspas. Writing a preview for the excellent Forza Futbol I rather lazily followed the judgement of an ex-player rather than my own instincts, and suggested that although Celta’s Iago Aspas was gifted, he lacked the intelligence to make the step up to a higher level. I was going against my gut instinct as he’d enjoyed a good start to the season. Soon I suspected I should have stuck to my guns: Aspas continued to appear to have class. Then the Galician derby came along and made me reassess him once more!
Aspas really caught the eye in the Spanish second division last season, when his prolific form was the key factor in Celta’s return to the top division. This season, he’s been their chief hope of survival.
Going into today’s final, decisive match of the season he has twelve goals and six assists, not bad for a club which has struggled all year. The fact that five of those goals have come on the road speaks well of him too: Celta have been moderate at home and dreadful away, but at least Aspas has been turning up when the going has been tough rather than performing in home games when circumstances have been easier.
However, just when my positive opinion of him was solidifying, along came the crucial derby at Deportivo. The stakes were massive, with both sides in dire danger of relegation. At the time it felt like only a win would be good enough for either side. You certainly couldn’t accuse Aspas of not caring. The problem is, just when Celta needed a big performance from their star player, he cared too much!
His act of madness, a crazy headbutt on Carlos Marchena, came in the 29th minute when Depor were leading 1-0. It led to his sending off, Celta went on to lose 3-1 and he picked up a four game suspension.
He’s come back into the side and looked to make amends, with two goals in five games, but can he be trusted in pressure-cooker matches? He’s never scored in the Galician derby which means so much to him, and disciplinary problems have dogged his career. Marchena is as crafty as they come and no doubt ensnared him in one of his non-too-subtle Machiavellian ploys; Aspas will find plenty of players in the Premiership who will look to provoke him if word of a suspect temperament spreads.
He’s worked hard this season to contain his temper – until that derby – but has tended in the past to open his mouth before thinking. Maybe moving to a country where he doesn’t speak the language well enough to get himself into trouble won’t be a bad thing.
A classy striker, happy dropping deep, deadly on his left foot, Aspas has made the transition to the highest level smoothly this season. In fact, he’s shown many of the attributes Luis Suarez has shown for Liverpool: he’s a similar player in many ways, happy to roam in the second line and cut in from the flanks, but possessing the penalty area instincts to play as a Number Nine. Pity his similarities with Luis Suarez don’t end on the pitch.
He might not possess those positive attributes to quite the same level as Suarez, but has been fairly prolific as he drifts around, feeding off the likes of Michael Krohn-Dehli, so he ought to find the improved service from Steven Gerrard and co to his liking.
There was a lot of talk of Arsenal having a look at him earlier in the season, and it made perfect sense to me. He needed to make a move to that level of club. Now he has, it’ll be fascinating to see how he adapts.