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Paletta's problem

Paletta scored on his debut - but it has been all downhill since then and he has played just five games

Gabriel Paletta's problems at Liverpool should come as no surprise - and should serve as a warning to young South Americans in similar situations.

Last year this column argued that the Argentine centre back's move from Banfield to Anfield was a case of too much, too soon.

There is a general rule when a player steps up a level, whether it be from juniors to reserves, from the reserves to the first team or from club to international football.

Usually he will be OK if he can reproduce the quality of performance he was producing in the lower level.

The problem in Paletta's case is that this does not apply. He has to learn to defend in a different way. Banfield are a traditional but relatively minor Argentine club, who play in tight, cramped stadium. They are not under the same pressure to attack as one of the big teams. It means that back at home Paletta was defending much closer to his own goal. If the ball was played behind him, it was the keeper's. A pair of holding midfielders swept up the danger in front of him. However, at Liverpool the defensive line is higher up the field. His feeble efforts against Arsenal have prompted speculation over a loan deal to Spanish side Gimnastic.

In a type of football much faster than anything he has seen before he is taking up an unaccustomed position - one which all the while threatens to expose his lack of mobility. It is no wonder he has had problems. He has taken a leap which represents a dangerous risk at this stage in his career. There was a half way house between Banfield and top-class European football. Before Liverpool came in for him, Buenos Aires giants River Plate were very keen on Paletta. They were so close to signing him that he was even named in their squad for last year's Copa Libertadores. Joining River would have been the perfect move.

While staying in his own culture he would have learnt much more about how to defend in an attacking team. Make a success of that, and the doors to Europe are open. Paletta skipped a stage, and is paying the price. It happens with so many South American careers and it is not hard to understand why such mistakes are made. From the player's point of view, when the Europeans come knocking it is difficult to refuse, even if the move is premature. Football is by its very nature an insecure profession. He might break a leg next month, and the chance may never come again.

And there are plenty of other forces pushing him across the Atlantic.

His agent may well be slobbering over a cut of the deal. Or his club might need the revenue to pay last month's wage bill. Or his registration could belong to an investment consortium anxious for a quick return. Promising young South American players can find themselves surrounded with an excess of financial interests, and a deficiency of good career advice.

Copyright - BBC

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