An industrious number nine who leads the line with brawny authority, Denis Stracqualursi has the potential to earn himself a cult figure status at Goodison Park similar to that which he enjoys at Tigre’s Coliseo de Victoria stadium. Everton’s swoop for the player on the last day of the European transfer window came as somewhat of a surprise to most pundits in Argentina. Not because his quality is questioned in his homeland, but due to the fact the move came seemingly out of nowhere. The striker had previously been mooted as a possible replacement for just-retired goal machine Martin Palermo at Boca Juniors, and more recently was on the brink of a move to champions Vélez. The Vélez transfer was blocked by AFA, the league’s governing body, as the local transfer window had officially closed, allowing the English club to sign ‘Traca’ on a one-year loan deal, with the option to buy the player upon completion of the loan period. The figures involved have not been disclosed.
The moment it became clear Stracqualursi (pronounced STRA-KWA-LURE-SEE) would not be sticking around at modest Tigre for long came in April of this year. The robust centre forward had already barged his way to 11 goals in the previous Apertura to become equal top scorer in that tournament. He started the Clausura campaign in even better form and had chalked up six goals from nine matches. Tigre played Boca away in the tenth round and the ‘Stracq Attack’ went ballistic. The Boca defence had no answer to his power and movement, and he became the first visiting player to score a hat-trick in the Bombonera for 16 years.
The son of a marble carver, he grew up in the underprivileged neighbourhood of Villa Domingo in Rafaela, Santa Fe province
Four years prior, Stracqualursi had been earning 30 pesos (£4.50) a game playing in his home town’s local league and just 18 months before his memorable afternoon at the Bombonera, overweight and warming the bench at Gimnasia de La Plata he had jokingly been told to find work in a factory, where nobody would make fun of him. Instead, he worked hard at improving his game and his fitness. Upon moving to Tigre, everything clicked for the player and now, just one year later he will have the chance to prove himself in the world’s richest league.
Merely the fact that he has made it to the big show is already an achievement for a man from such humble beginnings. The son of a marble carver, he grew up in the underprivileged neighbourhood of Villa Domingo in Rafaela, Santa Fe province. After quitting school he dabbled in odd jobs, played for several teams in the local league and, as he admitted to LV7Radio, was on the brink of taking a wrong turn.
“I was at the point of going down the wrong path,” said Stracqualursi. “I didn’t go to school. I did odd jobs for my uncle. I hung out with the lads from the neighbourhood on the corner. Not heavy stuff like drugs, but I was lazy,” he said.
“When I wanted to quit football, it was my father who gave me the slap in the face that I needed,” he said. Knowing that in those days his father would work 14 or 15 hours a day in the sun to give Denis the opportunity to make it as a footballer is what continues to motivate him.
Though he has never played for them, he remains an avid supporter of Colón de Santa Fe, and even has the team’s badge tattooed on his left calf
“He enjoys it more than me,” Stracqualursi told Rafaela Futbol. “The reason I’m playing football now is because of him. It was his dream even more than it was mine,” he said. Upon signing his first big contract, the first thing Traca did was buy a house for his sister and one for his father.
Though he has never played for them, he remains an avid supporter of Colón de Santa Fe, and even has the team’s badge tattooed on his left calf. He scoffs at claims made by some newspapers that he was ever a member of the Colón barra brava or that he has been to prison and remains a down to earth character, seemingly delighted with his burgeoning fame purely for the fact that now people have less trouble spelling his surname.
That the 23-year-old is a fearsome prospect when he is on the pitch, however, is not open to question. Whether his ability to overwhelm more languid Primera defences will translate to the serried tumult of the English Premier League remains to be seen.
Big target men are a rare breed in Argentinian football, meaning their physicality is often hard for opponents to cope with. Players such as Palermo, for example, who excel domestically, do not always enjoy the same level of success when they move abroad. Mauro Boselli, who scored goals for fun for Estudiantes but failed miserably at Wigan, is a recent example.
Stracqualursi is no Crespo or Batistuta, but he has the weapons at his disposal to become a hit in England. At 1.90m and 85kg, he certainly has the body type to bump shoulders with even the most menacing of Premier League defenders. Though he doesn’t so much run as rumble, he is by no means a slouch and is not excessively slow. He would sometimes track back for Tigre to participate in build-up play, but presumably his role at Everton will be to provide the all-important focal point for the team in and around the opponent’s penalty area. And at this task he is more than adept. As they don’t say in Spanish, para un mucho alto, tiene muy buen toque, i.e. he has a good touch for a big man.
At 1.90m and 85kg, he certainly has the body type to bump shoulders with even the most menacing of Premier League defenders
Traca is surprisingly competent in his ball control and can play neat passes to teammates in danger areas. Like Andy Carroll or Mark Viduka, he can be useful to his team even when he is not scoring lots of goals. He should be effective in this Everton side as a back-to-goal number nine, holding up the ball to enable the attack-minded midfielders to surge forward. As a finisher, he is all about power. From his booming headers to his close- to mid-range shots and penalty kicks that almost break the back of the net, he does enjoy thumping the ball home.
Tigre supporters, in their boutique stadium on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, idolised their hero just as much for his fighting spirit as for his goals. In the heady world of the Premier League, Everton fans will be expecting a fair amount of both before the chant of ‘Stra-qua-lur-si!’ is heard echoing around Goodison Park.
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