Emeirick Ouattara is one of those African players bought on a hunch. The Cameroon international was bought in from KSA on the cheap, costing a mere 5K.
In the English leagues there would have been absolutely no chance of him getting a work permit, so am grateful to work within the confines of the more relaxed La Liga League.
Reasonable technical attributes, and high scores for acceleration and pace make for a smooth moving striker, and the coverage for both the right and left attacking midfield roles means he could play a major squad role, or even challenge for a starting slot.
Striker Pelayo Fernández was bought to Osasuna for 2M from fellow Liga BBVA contestants Cartagena. After beginning his career with Espanyol in the 2014/15, he has not played more than 20 games in a season (being for the Espanyol B side in ‘15/16).
Fernández has also come off a lengthy injury spell of eight months, having damaged his cruciate ligaments during a match in late 2020. Despite this, he has strong technical and physical attributes and his exceptional free kick ability and finished will bring some goals for us this season.
Lluis Salvadó is a central defender who chose an Osasuna contract over remaining with the mighty Barcelona, and at nineteen is a graduate of the famed Barca academy. While his technical skills will need development over the coming years, his impressive physical stats, high work rate and determination scores mean he will not die wondering. At 6’4’’, he should cast an imposing shadow on the paddock. Scouts say his strengths lie in it ability with the ball in the air, and that will be a key to our style of play.
Many of the players that I had attracted to Osasuna were recent academy graduates or players who had spent their first professional contract with their clubs either bench riding, or worst, in the reserve grade competition in an attempt to remain match fit. I felt it was important to have some experience of La Liga in my squad, players who had seen action and knew how to perform in the top competition in Spain. Ángel Armendariz, a midfielder who signed from Racing, who were plying their trade in LIGA adelante for 450K, is that player.
At twenty-three, he is one of the older players signed, who generally had solid all round attributes, but had played close to 120 games, and 35 of those were with our fierce rivals Athletic in the later part of last decade. He may be a starter, but being older than the majority of the squad and having game experience might yet see him operate from the bench to close out a game and help calm the younger players around him with his cool head.
I have all the luck in the world sometimes, having finalized my three keepers in the squad, another player came highly recommended by my scouts – and was available on a free transfer. Fresh from his release from Portuguese Premier League side Belenenses comes nineteen year old Mário Quintal, who has already made three appearances for the Portuguese under twenty one side. With exceptional scores for positioning, decisions, determination and reflexes and strong communication and one on one skills, I believe I may have located my starting goalie.
It also means that at least two of my current keepers will be looking for loan contracts shortly, as I will want to get all of them as much game time as possible.
One of the disappointments you have to learn to stomach with a smile in any managerial role is when faced with a myriad of choices, and clubs, a potential signing, rejects your offer and signs elsewhere. This particularly stings when the player is a free agent. This was exactly the position I had with Roman Mamaev, who chose a Russian club over the sights and sounds of wondrous Spain. Perhaps he had a passion for those long cold nights, or maybe he had a vodka problem. Either way, ours was the superior offer on paper, and equally relevant, he didn’t accept.
The other problem facing me know was that I needed a quality striker to partner Ramos, at least until we find our feet. Yes, I have depth, by Fernandez is injury prone, and the others are developing players. I am searching for the player who can give me a solid ninety mins, play through extra time and have stamina to carry on, and whom looks likely to score.
Colin Griffin, a young Irish striker on a free transfer from Kilmallock is NOT that player, but being young and a specialist striker does count for something. He has great technical attributes and reminded me of Harry Bunn, who wasn’t the greatest player in terms of attributes, but over the course of four years scored in excess of a hundred goals…and then I sold him, for a extremely satisfying 30M.
Griffin – and while I can appreciate it is an amateur division in Ireland - has made 82 appearances, with 49 goals and 23 assists. Within the right environment, I am sure he will shine.
Mariusz Czerwinski, however, is that special striker. With Mamaev rejecting us, the seventeen year old was bought in from Werder Breman for 1.6M. Not only is this young striker deemed to be a “model professional” but he already has reasonable scores for first touch, and excellent scores for finishing. Czerwinski also has excellent scores for teamwork, work-rate and determination, which tells me he will work extremely hard for the team.
Perhaps worryingly, he also has a high score for aggression…does that mean he will also be a candidate for the ref’s to keep an eye on? I hope that he doesn’t get to the stage where he is on a first name basis with the judicial panel! He could cover at a pinch both the left and right attacking midfield roles, and I am disappointed that his German U-19 coach has being playing him out of position at left midfield.
Looking at the squad, I was pleased with whom I had managed to sign. Putting the team together, I had inadvertently overlooked the right flank. I had strikers to burn, and natural strikers who could be pressed into service with the attacking role, but no player was a natural at the right midfield (MR) role, and there was a similar issue with the right defender position. I was now on the lookout for some right sided players.
As expected, Josh King's deal with Adelaide United fell through. He's been offered again, this time two clubs are courting; Adelaide (I would have thought they would have learned by now) and German First Division club Kaiserlautern. I'll be sure to reject Adelaide's this time though.
Central defender Deivid rejected a contract with Almería who play in LIGA adelante and there are still no offers for León!
Gürkan Günden was bought in from Turkish Premier Side Barsaspor. The nineteen year old right defender has solid physical attributes and reasonable technical attributes, particularly for tackling and passing. Whilst only 5’9’’ and we had to part with 925K to make the deal happen, I believe Günden will be the cornerstone of our defensive line for years to come.
The other aspect to this deal which puts the 925K fee in context is that he is on a three year contract, but only asked for 375 per week, whereas the average wage payment to players is around 4K.
Slovakian youngster Marian Vadja was under contract by First Division side Zilina under we made a 575K play for the starlet. He has great all round stats, and could push Günden hard for a starting role with the right defender. Again, my scouts tell me he has the potential to be one of the best players at the club, and given his age, 575K will seem a drop in the ocean in a few years.
I was also glad that decent fees had been garnered from some of the players whom I had offloaded; it meant that I could afford to splash out on some classy young players and help them develop – and the most satisfying aspect is that I don’t need to pay these players 30K per week.
Stewart Faulds represents one of those deals which you wish you could do time and time again. The eighteen year old could cover all the positions across the middle of the park (although it was the right side which had my interest). The young Englishman was unhappy at West Ham, and I offered 45K – bargain basement stuff – and the offer was accepted! I’ve locked him into a four year deal and his salary requests were reasonable. He has very strong physical stats, including a 19 for acceleration.
If he impresses me during the friendly matches, the chances of him being a constant starter at right wing are high indeed.
West Ham look to have some talented young players coming through their ranks, pity most of them are unhappy at the moment. Pity also, that Osasuna's reputation is such that one one - Stewart Faulds - wants to discuss terms with me. I'm keeping an eye on twenty year old striker Steven Nicholson though.
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