Andre Moritz: Crystal Palace's New Brazilian Secret Weapon

He's only been in town for 4 weeks but in 'Get Moritz out for the lads', the Palace fans already have a song ready to prompt Dougie Freedman should promising new signing Andre Moritz ever find himself on the bench...
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He's only been in town for 4 weeks but in 'Get Moritz out for the lads', the Palace fans already have a song ready to prompt Dougie Freedman should promising new signing Andre Moritz ever find himself on the bench...

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After enduring a nail-nibbling couple of weeks preceding transfer deadline day and months of wilting optimism, it came as a welcome shock for Palace fans to hear of a triple decker signing for CPFC the Friday before deadline day.

A restless online campaign for urgent market activity reached tipping point across the fan's forums, and finally the faithful's prayers were steadfastly, duly answered. Rumoured acquisitions of alleged misfits Darcy Blake (Cardiff City) and Yannick Bolasie (Bristol City) were realised relatively promptly after first surfacing, but added to their fanfare was the curious procurement of a mysterious, nomadic Brasilian named Andre Moritz.

Any self respecting Eagle wouldn't dare get their feathers in too much of a flap about news such as this, not immediately anyway. We've had our wings clipped before, so there's a natural tendency to keep wise caution upon any announcement associating a South American súper-niño with Crystal Palace FC.

Mentioning names like Fernando de Ornelas or Ivan Kaviedes is akin to pulling teeth for a Palace supporter. De Ornelas the vaunted Venezuelan who started only five games for us in 1999 before showing a clean pair of heels and flying home after hearing his hometown had been badly flooded, never to return. And Ecuadorian international Kaviedes, best known for his bicycle kick goal against Barcelona whilst playing for Real Valladolid. He unbelievably signed to an excitable Iain Dowie for £2million only to have his contract cancelled having made only one start for the club. Most wince-inducing of all is the story of Walter Del Rio, the young Argentine who joined from Boca Juniors in 1998. He also made only one start despite Palace moving him into a flat and buying him a car. Most recently we were graced by rookie Antonio Pedroza, hailed as 'the new Chicharito' and a coup signing snatched from the jaws of Tottenham. But despite hints that Freedman would nurture the promising Mexican into his own mould, he was strangely moved on over the summer.

You can forgive us then for not busting out the Samba when news broke of Moritz's arrival, but Dougie Freedman does not sign players for fun. He wouldn't even sign them with a gun to his head, even if it was a defensive midfielder with peak fitness. Those days when heavily edited VHS montages were circulated by unscrupulous agents to naive, desperate clubs like Palace are now behind us in 2012. So thank the cyberlords for the internet, enabling Football League managers, scouts and fans alike to put faces, career stats and histories to the names of the obscure last minute liberos touted about to all and sundry.

Hence it looks like Dougie Freedman and his coaching staff have done their due diligence with this player, so what of the boy from Brazil? Through Dougie's contacts in Scotland he heard of Moritz's unfruitful August trial with Rangers and invited him down to SE25. Following five years in Turkey, Moritz had been asked to play in a friendly for Rangers but refused to do so unless under contract for fear of injury. In stepped Freedman.

Enthusiasm remained muted following his first couple of appearances but that all changed with Moritz's home debut vs Sheffield Wednesday preceding the international break. Fans looked at each other in disbelief throughout the first half as the long-forgotten dependable bridge between defence and attack resurrected itself in a red and blue shirt, something not seen since the days of fellow left-footer midfield maestro Michael Hughes at Selhurst Park.

Freedman played the whole of last season with two defensive midfielders, but after this game he was using words such as 'expansive' in describing his team's winning performance, a term we never knew he knew of. And it was in no small part thanks to the contribution from Andre Moritz.

Mixing a blend of precision passing with deft touches, displaying vigilance and urgency whilst keeping a cool head and combining one touch football with strength under pressure, Palace may have just found a Championship version of David Silva. Boasting more height and defensive sensibility, but not oozing with class or with as much pace. At first glance, he's just as good as you can expect to find in the second tier.

With such a description you'd expect a player with Italian rather than Brasilian credentials. Well, Moritz literally has both.

It's thanks to his Italian passport that the need for a work permit has been swerved. And funnily enough, it may be no coincidence that Dougie has finally found the Italian-style performer that can make his Italian formation start to tick.

Is it possible that it's too early to get too excited about his potential? Absolutely, yes. Ultimately the jury is still out, it's just worth noting that it's a long time since such excitement has been heralded by a new signing, especially one smuggled through the back door with such little hype or commotion. Coupled with the fact he's a much-required experienced creative midfielder, you can understand the simmering buzz and lingering hope amongst Palace supporters.

There's a likeable character off the pitch to go with it too. Moritz engages with his followers through social media in all the four languages he speaks, despite several offers worldwide he came to Palace'for fun, not for the money' (has he seen our league positions over the last few years?) and he had a famous Playboy girlfriend whilst in Turkey. Three things which will always quickly endear you to your new fans at your new club.

What's not to like?

For a 26 year old Moritz has an air of journeyman about him, having just joined his seventh club across three countries.

There's nothing wrong with that except it doesn't inspire confidence that he'll stay beyond his 1 year contract. Whether it was the club or he who pressed for this minimal commitment, there's a sense that he's basically here to put himself in the shop window whilst having his fun. The Palace board will have to monitor developments very closely so as not to add to their slight reputation for naivety in transfer dealings.

Frustratingly the Palace faithful may only see best of him at home. Starting this season with a very brittle defence, Freedman is not likely to abandon his cautious team set-up just yet especially on the road. But let's just see if Moritz can help coax Dougie out of his tactical shell starting at Charlton tonight. It's on Sky, it's a heated local derby and the first televised league game for two weeks, it's as good a shop window as any, Andre.

Follow @jesse_boyce on Twitter

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