Lorenzo Melgarejo: Everything Liverpool Fans Need To Know About Their Latest Signing

When players leave the Primeira Liga for the bright lights and heavy wallets of Europe's biggest leagues, the reaction of Portuguese fans normally tells you a lot about how highly they rated the outgoing player. Liverpool's loan signing of Benfica's Paraguayan defender won't be causing uproar in Lisbon.
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When players leave the Primeira Liga for the bright lights and heavy wallets of Europe's biggest leagues, the reaction of Portuguese fans normally tells you a lot about how highly they rated the outgoing player. Liverpool's loan signing of Benfica's Paraguayan defender won't be causing uproar in Lisbon.

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When Monaco completed the £60million double-signing of Porto's João Moutinho and James Rodriguez, for example, there was widespread disappointment that two such important and talented players were leaving the Estádio do Dragão .

Benfica's young left-sided talent Lorenzo Melgarejo is a somewhat different kettle of fish.

In fact, it's fair to say that few fans of Portugal's best-supported club will be crying into their Sagres if, as expected, the 22-year-old tries his luck on Merseyside next season.

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the young Paraguayan is a positional one.

You see, Melgarejo was signed by Benfica from Independiente two years ago as a left winger, and his stand-out season in the Primeira Liga came when he was loaned out to play in that position for less illustrious domestic rivals, Paços de Ferreira. The young Paraguayan helped Paços dodge relegation that 2011/12 season and - with 10 goals in fewer than 30 games - gained plenty of admirers marauding down the left wing with quality and penetration.

Given the penchant in the modern game for converting wingers to full-backs, what happened next was fairly predictable. Impressed with Melgarejo's heroics at Paços, Benfica boss Jorge Jesus recalled the player from northern Portugal and made him first-choice left-back for the 2012/13 season.

Portugal and Real Madrid left-back Fabio Coentrão was famously converted from winger to full-back during his time at the Estádio de Luz and Jesus was adamant he could oversee a similar transformation with regard to Melgarejo.

On the evidence of Benfica's last campaign, however, Jesus' bold and attacking tactical stroke didn't work.

Last season, Melgarejo looked a fish out of water. Although his incisive running and ability going forward flashed occasionally to the fore, he struggled to adapt and was highlighted - by media, fans and opposition alike - as a defensive weak link.

Signs that the Paraguayan international and his new role weren't a match made in heaven were there from the off: Melgarejo scoring an own-goal and gifting another to opponents Braga in a 2-2 draw on the opening day of the season.

Thereafter, poor positioning and a lack of tenacity plagued Melgarejo's displays - his occasional goals (two in March, for example) and attacking contributions overshadowed by his defensive shortcomings and propensity to commit a clanger.

Although Melgarejo played his part in Benfica's run to the Europa League final, and eventual defeat to Chelsea, his display in their semi-final first-leg defeat to Fenerbache provided an excerpt of his season in microcosm.

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In front of a partisan Turkish crowd, Melgarejo was composed and neat in possession early on, as Benfica started the game solidly. However, as pressure mounted and the Eagles dug in to protect a valuable clean sheet, it was Melgarejo who shot his side in the foot - inexplicably heading a clearance across his six-yard box to allow Fenerbache centre-back Korkmaz to turn home the only goal of the game. Benfica overturned the deficit in the second-leg, but their achilles heel remained.

Benfica and Melgarejo's season fizzled out miserably. After being pipped to the league title by rivals Porto and sunk by Bratislav Ivanovic's late, late winner in the Europa League final in Amsterdam, Jesus omitted Melgarejo from his line-up for the last game of the season - the Portuguese Cup Final - which Benfica also lost.

That Melgarejo, though fit, was dropped for this cup final defeat to Vitoria Guimaraes underscored the respective failures of player and coach: Melgarejo's failure to adapt and Jesus' to convert.

Something of a footballing missionary, Liverpool chief Rodgers seems firmly set on a course of developing exciting, young talent in need of a little love and guidance - and Melgarejo fits fairly well well into this category.

In Rodger's case, the impact of Sebastian Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge during the latter half of last season suggests that the Northern Irishman can, indeed, smooth rough edges and inspire raw talent.

Jesus, though, has a similar reputation as a tactician and developer of players in Portugal - the fact he was unable to re-model Melgarejo suggests that Rodgers will have his work cut out if he is to mould him into someone who can oust Jose Enrique from the Reds' line-up.

That LIverpool have pursued the option of a loan, reportedly with a view to buying Melgarejo for under €10million (£8.5m) in a year's time, suggests they want time to evaluate the youngster's potential.

Given Melgarejo's rough conversion last season, this makes eminent sense.