Freshly linked to Manchester City, Lavezzi is a player with even more swagger than Carlos Tevez...
You know you must be considered something special when Diego Maradona believes that you are worthy of wearing his number 10 shirt.
That honour was bestowed on Ezequiel Lavezzi – another compact Argentine who has played a leading role in reviving the fortunes of Napoli this season which saw the Hand of God’s old team qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 21 years.
At present the club have resisted any temptation to bring the number out of retirement with the belief that if president Aurelio De Laurentiis is to cash in on one third of the Holy Trinity of Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Lavezzi then it could well be the latter, who has had his fair share of injury and disciplinary problems, who moves on.
There has been reported interest from the Premier League in the form of the ubiquitous Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and the striker’s agent has muddied the waters further by calling on De Laurentiis to ‘show me the money’ or he will get one an English clubs to do so.
Think Carlos Tevez albeit more heavily tattooed and even more of the gunslinger’s swagger about him
So is ‘El Pocho’ (the Chubby One) worth all this fawning and adulation?
Who does he play like?
Despite Lavezzi’s tricky dribbling and energetic displays he is no Diego by any stretch of the imagination or even on the same stratosphere as Lionel.
However, the 26-year-old is still a special talent very much in keeping with the South American school where pace and direct running can unhinge even the most robust of defences: think Carlos Tevez albeit more heavily tattooed and even more of the gunslinger’s swagger about him – in fact, quite worryingly he has a pistol tattoo tucked into his midriff.
Having made an abortive start in Italian football in 2004 when he joined Genoa but was loaned back home to San Lorenzo, the then 19-year-old had to wait another three years to make the return trip across the Atlantic.
Napoli fans fell for the dashing striker, who liked to motor in from the left, scattering defenders in every direction, from the moment he hit a hat-trick in an Italian Cup soon after his arrival in 2007.
The ‘Diego’ comparisons may have been flattering but unfortunately they did little to deflate Lavezzi’s already considerable ego – the rising star’s penchant for tattoos and tantrums went hand in hand and the San Paolo faithful have come accustomed to moments of sublime magic and mediocre in equal measure.
What is his current form like?
Chastened by a disappointing World Cup, Lavezzi knuckled down to form a devastating trident with Cavani and Hamsik adding work-rate to his undoubted skill – and becoming the provider for Cavani who would finish the season with 26 goals in Serie A.
Ill-temperament raised its ugly head at the turn of the year when he reacted to being spat at by AS Roma full-back Aleandro Rosi with a phlegm-filled riposte which cost him a three-match ban while a troublesome knee problem blighted part of the second half of the campaign - and he ended the season with just six goals.
Having said that his appetite for hard work and confidence in his own ability to bounce back and keep going for goal even after slicing numerous chances wide or blasting shots over the bar were rewarded with some spectacular moments including a contender for goal of the season against AC Milan.
Which club would he suit?
Fully fit and focused, Lavezzi’s darting runs and quick one-twos around the edge of the area would certainly suit a side like Manchester City that flourishes when the ball is moved quickly while his pace and solid build would do much more damage than say the more slight David Silva.
He, however, shares many of the traits possessed by Luis Suarez at Liverpool and although he has gelled well with Cavani and Hamsik he does not feel he is a lesser player.
How likely is a transfer, and could be handle the Premier League?
He has the strength, pace and importantly bravery to take on any defence and in a league where niggling fouls and shirt pulling are less common and spitting particularly non-existent, Lavezzi could well flourish.
Much depends on whether De Laurentiis feels he can wring something around 30million Euros out of a deal but the player’s agent has maintained that his client would only move to a club in the Champions League which would rule Liverpool and Spurs out immediately.
Even then if Manchester City were to pursue their interest Lavezzi would need plenty of persuading to leave the Bay of Naples where he is so feted and the local character is very much in keeping with what an Argentine feels at home.
He may be the ideal replacement including tantrums and all for Tevez but whether his demanding personality would be a fit for Roberto Mancini is another matter.
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