Federico Mancuello: Why is the Independiente captain wanted by Spurs and West Ham?

It has been quite an 18 months for Independiente captain Federico Mancuello after struggling for years to make a real impact at his boyhood club, the 26-year-old has rapidly helped the club from their darkest hour in the Nacional B back to the Primera, been named club captain and made a goal scoring debut for Argentina.

It is little wonder that ‘Mancu’ is so loved in the red half of Avellaneda but his goal scoring exploits from midfield have not gone unnoticed and now it appears that the time is right for the club icon to take the step up and test himself in Europe.

A host of Premier League sides, including West Ham, Newcastle and Tottenham have all been attributed with an interest and for a knockdown price they might just pick up a bargain.


Who is Federico Mancuello?

Despite being born more than 700 kilometres north of Avellaneda in the city of Reconquista in Santa Fe Province, Federico Mancuello is Independiente through and through. He joined the academy as a youngster and slowly worked his way through the youth divisions at the club before making his first team debut in December 2008 under manager Miguel Angel Santoro.

Mancuello’s performances at this early stage of his career were rather hit-and-miss and he found it difficult under a number of different coaches to command a starting role.

At 21 years of age, Mancuello was part of the Independiente squad that claimed the Copa Sudamericana title in 2010 but a year later when manager Antonio Mohamed decided he was not part of his plans, Mancu was sent on-loan to Belgrano.

The spell in Cordoba did little to improve Mancuello’s inconsistency and injury eventually hampered his opportunities and so he returned to Independiente a year later ready to battle for a place in the side.

This unfortunately coincided with one of the worst periods in the celebrated clubs history and at the end of the 2012/13 season, El Rojo were relegated out of the top flight for the first time in their history.

Unlike River Plate two years prior, Independiente did not cruise back to the top flight and their year spent in the Nacional B proved to be a real battle of attrition. It took a playoff match on June 11th 2014 against Huracan for El Rojo to seal their place back in the Primera to the relief of everyone associated with the club.

Mancuello had been a regular in the starting eleven scoring two goals but had not yet become the figurehead of the side with veteran Daniel Montenegro still in possession of the captain’s armband.

This was to change during the 2014 Torneo Transicion. In the opening fixture back in the Primera against Atletico Rafaela, Mancuello opened the deadlock and set El Rojo on their way to victory with a superb individual goal. It showcased what the new Mancuello was all about – a deft turn lost his marker and after driving towards the box, he unleashed a powerful left footed shot into the corner of the net.

Over the course of the season, this left foot would become more and more of a weapon for Independiente and Mancuello ended the season as one of the Primera’s leading scorers with ten goals in nineteen appearances.

Mancuello had firmly established himself as the centre of Almiron’s Independiente side and in their first season back in the top flight, El Rojo finished a more than respectable fourth. It was this consistent level of performance that led Argentina manager Gerardo Martino to first take notice and describe the 26-year-old as the best player in the domestic league.

This led to the 26-year-old earning his first international nod for the friendlies prior to the Copa America and on his debut against El Salvador in Washington he scored an audacious free-kick from the narrowest of angles.

Many, unaccustomed with Mancuello, might have thought that it was a fortuitously overhit cross, but those who have watched him score from corners for Independiente know differently.

Martino selected Mancuello for his preliminary 30-man squad for the Copa America but was cut from the final 23 that travelled to Chile.

However, the experience had pushed Mancu further into the spotlight and determined to gain more international experience the captain of El Rojo knew that he would need to leave for Europe.


A long list of suitors now appears centred in the Premier League

When Mancuello emerged as one of the top players in the Argentine Primera, he signed a new deal with Independiente but crucially with a release clause set at a meagre $5 million. Following the Argentina debut, interest in the midfielder has never gone away and at such a low price it is easy to see why.

El Rojo have gone about their transfer business during the winter break and with the season back up and running, their captain has been suspended and subsequently injured as the club look prepared for life after his departure.

Celta Vigo and Dnipro had both been strongly linked earlier in the window with Mancuello having a clear preference for Spain after speaking with fellow Argentine midfielder Augusto Fernandez and stating it will further increase his chances of an Argentina recall.

However, with the Spanish club opted against making an offer and Ukranian side Dnipro also pulling out it has left Mancuello’s destination a little more unclear.

The midfielder remains in training with Independiente and is in contention for their upcoming league match but the fact remains that he and the club are waiting for a reasonable offer from Europe.

His agent is now undoubtedly attempting to stir up interest in his client and reports now centre around Seria A clubs, Palermo and Sampdoria along with a host of Premier League clubs.

West Ham, Newcastle, Tottenham, West Brom and even Manchester City have all been mentioned and the likelihood of these moves varies from club-to-club.

What is true is that at just $5 million, or a fraction over £3 million, any of these clubs could pick themselves up an experienced box-to-box midfielder with some decent years still ahead of him.

In a market of inflated transfer prices, Mancuello represents good value for those shopping in this window on a budget.


What will ‘Mancu’ bring to Europe?

Mancuello’s absence will be keenly felt by Independiente - since being handed a starring role under Jorge Almiron the 26-year-old has scored 13 times in 29 league appearances.

The step from the Argentine Primera to any of Europe’s top leagues is huge, but there is far more to Mancu than his goals. With a recent strike-rate more likely to be seen on the record of a centre-forward, it is an easy misconception to make.

A central midfielder by trade, Mancuello has seen his role shifted as Independiente have experimented with different formations. On the left of the three midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 Mancuello enjoyed most success as he was able to pick up the ball in space and shoot from range and arrive late in the penalty area unmarked, while shirking the more rigorous defensive duties of the two holding midfielders.

His left foot is a tremendous asset as Mancuello is a clean striker of the ball and is therefore a real goal threat but also a decent set-piece taker. It also allows him to play wide and although not blessed with the blistering pace of a winger, he is no slouch either whipping in excellent crosses from that flank.

However, he has also shown the battling qualities needed to play in a central role in a more conventional 4-4-2. Not shy of a challenge but with the engine to get from one penalty box to the other for 90 minutes and contribute to the attack, Mancuello is a natural box-to-box player. Partnered with a solid defensive midfielder, Mancu has the range of passing to provide a compact yet creative spine to a side.

At 26, there is perhaps not a great deal of room for development and it is highly unlikely that Mancuello will end up plying his trade at the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich but for a mid-table club he could prove good value.

Hard-working, a good engine and a wonderful left boot make Mancuello a valuable and versatile midfielder, who at $5 million is difficult to beat for value.


Written by Peter Coates

Follow Peter on Twitter @golazoargentino

You can check out more of his excellent work on Argentinian football through his website, Golazo Argentino

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Arrested development: How has Arsenal’s spending affected their British ‘core’?

On December 19, 2012, Arsenal made a quintuple contract announcement. Five young British players - Kieran Gibbs, Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere –had all signed to “long-term deals”. The slightly awkward accompanying press photo gave the pen-to-paper visual cliché a schoolboy complexion as headmasterial Arsene Wenger appeared to not only witness the mass pretend contract signing, but invigilate it.

Wenger spoke of his plan to “build a team around a strong basis of young players, in order to get them to develop their talent at the club”. Two and a half years on, how has that panned out?

Ramsey sticks out like a sore thumb: the best player, the only guaranteed starter, and a former national captain. Nine goals in the first 11 games of 2013/14 marked the springboard moments when a youngster’s promising form became the track record of one of the Premier League’s best midfielders. High standards have been regularly met ever since.

But Ramsey’s development is unrepresentative of the contract quintet. He was Arsenal’s sixth most used player in 2014/15, according to WhoScored.com. Gibbs (11th), Oxlade-Chamberlain (16th), Wilshere (19th) and Jenkinson (equal last, I suppose) are all marginalised to different extents. Is this explainable with injury setbacks, pecking orders and loan deals or has something gone awry in their development?

Jenkinson’s Arsenal days appear to be numbered with a second year-loan at West Ham agreed, but if Hector Bellerin can depose Mathieu Debuchy, which seems likely, an exit for the now 30-year-old Frenchman would create a route back. Jenkinson is however unlikely to become an Arsenal regular in the current situation - surely grounds for failing the “develop their talent at the club” test.

Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere are evidently capable, occasionally excellent, but unable to establish themselves due to regular, almost inevitable injuries and inconsistent form. At 21, Oxlade-Chamberlain has time on his side, but Wilshere will reach his 24th birthday having made more than 25 league appearances just once. Gibbs, 26 in September, made eight fewer starts (18) than Nacho Monreal last year.

Mesut Ozil’s arrival signalled either the end of Wengerball or the next phase: prudent development finally enhanced with pricey pre-made superstars. Since July 2013, Arsenal have spent £148.2m on nine players. Wenger’s new-found appetite for expensively guaranteed returns may be a reaction to title rivals’ financial indulgence, it could hint at the possible imminence of his exit, or may simply represent the logical progression of Arsenal’s successful post-Highbury economics.

But one thing seems clear: patience isn’t what it used to be. World-class players can now be imported at will, even from Chelsea.  This raises the ladder for the fringe members of the squad, for every player in that famous photograph bar Ramsey.

The developmental benefits of Arsenal’s back-to-back FA Cups in this period cannot be underestimated - winning trophies is literally the best habit to form in football. But the problem for the photograph’s English contingent, and Arsenal’s English players in general (eight of a 32-man squad), is that arguably none are first choice players.

Constantly-on-the-verge-of-breaking-through Theo Walcott may beg to differ, but 23 league games per year on average at the Emirates, and just 27 in the last two injury-devastated campaigns hint at precisely the problems outlined for the others.

Many have time on their side but the likes of Ashley Cole and Cesc Fabregas had become reliable, vital parts of the team by this stage of their Arsenal careers.

So far for Wenger’s home-grown youth batch, it’s only Ramsey who can say the same.


Written by Chris Smith

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdsmith789

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Mat Ryan: Australia’s star keeper should prove to be a hit at Valencia

Name: Mat Ryan 

Position: Goalkeeper 

Age: 23 

Country: Australia 

Club: Valencia 


Earlier this month Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan signed a six-year deal with Spanish club Valencia, a move that capped two outstanding years in the goalkeeper’s blossoming career.

After winning an A-League title with the Central Coast Mariners in 2013 – the first in the club’s history - Ryan signed for Club Brugge and proved an instant hit in Belgium.

Winning the Belgian Cup and named Belgium Pro League Goalkeeper of the Year in successive seasons, Ryan’s performances were enough to convince Valencia manager Nuno Espirito Santo to spend €7 million on the Socceroo.

“We want to eventually win the La Liga and win the Champions League, and I’ll be doing my best to help the team achieve this,” Ryan said after making the move to Spain.

A confident, mobile and technically gifted goalkeeper, Ryan has an idiosyncratic style that should be well suited to La Liga.

The player described himself as a “sweeper keeper”  who is “athletic [and] quick along the ground”. A diminutive figure, Ryan compensates for his lack of size with agility and an uncanny ability to read play and act almost as a spare defender at times.

At the age of 23, he has been anointed as the successor to legendary Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, beating far more experienced challengers to the No.1 jersey.

Ryan played in all three of his country’s games at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, conceding nine goals as the Socceroos promptly exited the tournament.

But while his individual performance was slightly disappointing, the experience should prove invaluable for a player who has enjoyed rapid and promising development.

The future looks brighter still for the young shot-stopper, with regular Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves set for a lengthy absence through injury.

With his natural aggressiveness and tenacity tempered by his comfort on the ball and distribution skills, Ryan seems an excellent fit for a La Liga club and will be hoping for an immediate chance to showcase his skills and adapt to life at the Mestalla.


Written by Chris Paraskevas

Follow Chris on Twitter @Cparaskevas

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts

Jordan Veretout: Why the Nantes star is another fine Ligue 1 signing for Aston Villa

Aston Villa seem to be on the Newcastle path as they close in on the fourth arrival from Ligue 1 and arguably the most exciting or as exciting as Amavi - Jordan Veretout.

Veretout was a standout performer in the first half of the 2014/15 season. In the first 18 games he scored six times and grabbed three assists, a praise-worthy feet for any footballer. He was instrumental in helping Nantes stay in the top half of the table. His form dipped towards the second half of the season as he only scored once more along with giving three assists in the next 18 games for Nantes.

But for a player who is still not a finished article – and it would be wrong to say that he is – Veretout did remarkably well last season and just at 22, was a leader for the French side.

He has been linked with Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Newcastle and most recently Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. However, it is Aston Villa who seem to be landing him.

He has made 130 appearances for Nantes in his career which shows how much experience he already has and it is no surprise that a call from Premier League has come his way after a promising second season in top flight.

The Frenchman can play anywhere in the midfield and has been used both ahead and behind the centre midfielder role. Arguably, he is best in a box-to-box role, but he can perform well even when he plays slightly behind in a holding position. He averaged 2 tackles and 1.3 interceptions every 90 minutes last season which shows that he does more than decently in the defensive facet. 1.5 shots, 2 key passes and 1.2 successful dribbles per 90 minutes indicate he is equally good in his natural attacking side of things.

He has got excellent skills and techniques and importantly works very hard. He has great potential, but it is still not yet realized.

Tim Sherwood and Aston Villa need to make Veretout play one role and it should be his preferred playmaker and box-to-box role. With Gueye already there, someone who is developed and perhaps in the peak of his career, it makes no sense to place Veretout in the holding role.

He should play in the heart of the midfield, or slightly ahead, as his style of play can ensure Villa dominate the crucial second third of the pitch. Basically, Veretout can no longer afford to be a jack of all trades. He has to decide or it must be decided for him, where he wants to establish himself in the midfield.

The youngster quietly goes about his game and life and isn’t one who particularly wants the limelight. He wants to focus on his football and break into the senior France side.

Competition is immense at the moment but there is no reason why he won’t get under former Nantes graduate Deschamps, if he can become a regular at Villa.


Written by Aakriti Mehrotra

Follow Aakriti on Twitter @Aakriti1

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts