Articles

Who is Gabriel Paletta? - The lowdown on Liverpool's new Argentine defender

In the 1960s Liverpool manager Bill Shankly sent the press on a voyage round giant centre-half Ron Yeats.
Perhaps in a few months' time current Reds boss Rafael Benitez will do the same trick with Gabriel Paletta.

The young Argentine defender is built like an ox, and the journalists would take a while to circumnavigate him. But I wonder if it might be a journey taking place too soon.

Paletta enjoyed a spectacular 2005. As the year started he had never played in the first team at Banfield, a traditional but relatively small club in greater Buenos Aires.

He was not even included in the club's 25-strong squad for the group phase of their first ever Copa Libertadores campaign, and was overlooked by Argentina for the South American Under-20 tournament.

Given his chance in the local championship, he made an instant impression.

A strong, rugged, no-nonsense centre back, he caught the eye in both penalty areas, stopping goals at one end, scoring them at the other with his bulky presence and aerial threat.

When Banfield reached the knock out stages of the Libertadores he was brought into the squad, and played two excellent games against Independiente Medellin of Colombia.

But even though his club won the tie and qualified for the quarter finals he played no further part in the competition because he was called up for the World Youth Cup in Holland.

Argentina won the trophy and Paletta was first choice throughout, and though he occasionally tried the referees' patience, he was a key part of a defensive unit that conceded just five goals in seven games.

By the time he was back in club action Banfield had sold their star players, and a difficult time was widely predicted.

Instead they finished fifth in the last championship, despite winning only five of their 19 games. But they were beaten just once, and Paletta was the rock on which the defence was founded.

He would clearly be on the move before long. The question was where. And he clearly looked the kind of centre-back who one day will do well in Europe. The question is when.

Paletta is one of those complicated South American cases of a player whose registration is not wholly owned by a club. There are other investors involved, who typically prefer short-term profit to long term career development.

He seemed certain to join local giants River Plate, who even reserved the number six shirt for him.

In purely football terms, joining River is the obvious step to take. He would learn about the pressures of being with a big club. He would have to cope with the fact that River's expansive style of play can leave their defenders exposed.

And he could do all of this in his home environment, while preparing himself for the move to Europe.


Paletta's arrival will boost Liverpool's defensive options

Instead he has skipped a stage. Finance has won over football. With just a year behind him Paletta has opted to move to a country with a different culture, language and football.

It all seems very similar to the case of Luciano Figueroa, the Argentine centre-forward who was briefly with Birmingham City.

Figueroa joined the Blues straight from a handful of games with Rosario Central, who got not a penny from the deal, having already sold him to a group of investors.

The move took him several bridges too far. He is now back in Argentina trying to regain his momentum with River Plate.

Rather than being Anfield bound, perhaps at this point it would be better for Paletta to be Figueroa's team-mate.

Instead, they were direct adversaries last Sunday in the Argentine championship. Figueroa got the better of his marker and River won 3-1.

Paletta gave the impression of a highly-promising defender who might need some more mileage before making the move across the Atlantic.

Copyright - BBC


Back

Season archive

We've got all the results from official games, appearance stats, goal stats and basically every conceivable statistic from 1892 to the present, every single line-up and substitutions!