Every single English Premier League club should target Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas, who isn’t just a good La Liga player, but one of the best.
If used in the right system and surrounded by a productive supporting cast, the 25-year-old Spaniard will set the Premier League alight.
This article will provide you an in-depth analysis of Aspas’ 2012-13 season, a statistical breakdown of his performances and reveal to you which Premier League club is best suited for Iago.
"Iago Aspas is a great goal scorer who will surprise people this season," said Bleacher Report La Liga columnist Michael Cerna during preseason.
In personal conversations with Michael before the start of the season, he was convinced that Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas would break out into a La Liga star—"trust me on this," he said.
It was somewhat of a left-field view, considering Iago's limited CV, not to mention the likes of Alejandro Alfaro, Ariza Makukula, Christian Stuani, Jefferson Montero, Marco Ruben and others, who had proven time after time that dominating the Segunda División wouldn't automatically translate to La Liga.
As it turns out, Aspas isn't just La Liga-standard, he has become one of the best players in the league—in doing so, making Michael's words prophetic.
The problem with YouTube highlights is that they don't really give you the full profile of the player in question.
If you based your opinion on Aspas on the compilation shown in this slide, you'd think he was a No. 9.
The fact is, he's more like a nine-and-a-half.
In theory, Celta manager Paco Herrera starts Iago up front, yet Aspas spends portions of the game as a central winger, an inverted winger and a No. 10, while also making runs like a No. 9.
In other words, he has the green-light to disregard positional discipline like Lionel Messi.
The following quote, from Getafe left-back Mané, is relevant to Iago's importance to Celta.
To give you some context, Real Madrid manager José Mourinho was perplexed by the media's focus on Pedro León's limited playing time (via AFP): "You talk of Pedro León as if he was Zinedine Zidane or Diego Maradona or Alfredo di Stefano."
To which, Mané responded (via Paul Macdonald at Goal.com): "León played like Maradona/Zidane at Getafe."
Paco sees Aspas in the same light Carlos Bilardo saw in Maradona and has burdened Iago with expectations Aimé Jacquet put on Zizou to carry the team.
Iago Aspas hasn't scored or created a goal in his last three games. Unsurprisingly, Celta Vigo are on a three-game goalless run, leading manager Paco Herrera to voice his concerns (via Inside Spanish Football):
He [Aspas] began in spectacular fashion and no-one could stop him in La Primera. He is now not at the same pace, and that worries me because we need 100 per cent. What concerns me is that Iago has his head filled with nonsense. The praise is affecting his creativity, because he himself is creating very large expectations.
No, Herrera. Your tactics—in short: "Don't concede a goal and pass the ball to Iago"—are the by-product of these lofty expectations and transfer speculations.
Did you really think opposing teams were going to continue letting Aspas, your only offensive threat, run riot?
Iago has to deal with three opposing outfielders, plus the goalkeeper. It was the same story in Celta's 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao.
Despite Aspas being marked by two or three players for the majority of this season, his offensive statistics are still in the same ballpark as world-class players.
G = goals
SPG = shots per goal
A = assists
SCPG = shots created per game
P% = passing percentage
CDPG = completed dribbles per game
Iago would have at least 8-12 assists if he was playing alongside Falcao.
What makes Aspas a constant creative threat is that he threads incisive passes outside the box, on the flanks and inside the box. His style is akin to Wayne Rooney.
Take a look at their chances created area zones and it's almost identical outside and inside the box.
The difference is that Aspas has launched a few Hail Mary passes from the regista position, he switches flanks more often and is a better dribbler but a less-accurate passer than Rooney.
Wayne has the luxury of playing alongside Robin van Persie, whilst Iago shoulders most of the workload for Paco's team.
Aspas has scored and provided a combined nine of Celta's 16 league goals, meaning Herrera has a weak supporting cast.
One other admirable trait from Iago is his willingness to chase down opposing players to recover the ball.
Even though he has committed more fouls than tackles, it's better than just taking a breather and watching the opposing centre-back carry the ball out of defence—something Danny Graham does.
Hull City supporters probably don't hold Celta Vigo in the highest regard, having signed their in-form forward Kamel Ghilas in 2009, only for him to tank in the Premier League.
However, Ghilas' 13 goals in 33 games wasn't even impressive by Segunda División standards, and he had struggled for Vitória in the Portuguese Primeira Liga the season before.
You can utter Iago Aspas' name alongside the likes of Aleksandr Mostovoi, Valery Karpin and Haim Revivo—you can't do the same with Ghilas.
Iago is a classy operator and considering the success of Spaniards performing in the Premier League, he will be a success under the right management and with teammates that aren't social loafers.
It's an odd comparison, but Aspas' rise to prominence at Celta is like Claude Makélélé becoming a critically acclaimed midfielder at the club, which opened the door to Real Madrid.
Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup, who played and coached in Spain, was complimentary of Iago Aspas' displays at Celta Vigo (via Tim Lewis at the Western Mail): "I know him, but to say he is coming here is a big step. He is a very good player, a good forward and he is doing very well at the moment in La Liga."
It's an ideal situation for Iago with four Spaniards in the squad and Laudrup being in-tune with La Liga football.
Regarding the logistics of Aspas' possible move to the Swans, he did extend his contract with Celta to 2017, allowing the club to have the upper-hand in future transfer negotiations.
Celta president Carlos Mourino is refusing to sell Iago during this transfer window.
Doing so is effectively guaranteeing relegation, offsetting the transfer fee they'd receive from Swansea.
Before you ask, Aspas and Michu are two totally different players.
Michu has a Premier League body with La Liga smarts, which is why he adapted to the EPL so smoothly.
He's a goal poacher operating in the space generally reserved for a No. 10. He doesn't create. That's why it seems opposing deep-lying midfielders don't mark him.
By the time the centre-backs notice Michu, the ball is in the back of the net and Swansea's No. 9 is holding his hand to his ear.
Aspas, on the other hand, is a technician with expansive vision who conjures up moments of genius.
There have been times where he has three opposing outfielders pressing him, yet he twists and turns away from them like Gianfranco Zola.
Replace Danny Graham with Mainz's Ádám Szalai backed up by a Spanish triumvirate consisting of Pablo Hernández, Michu and Iago.
Left or right flank? Doesn't matter. Aspas will be constantly interchanging wing positions with Pablo, causing disarray and confusion to the opposing team, whilst Michu quietly saunters into the box unmarked.
Graham has scored in two successive games. Prior to that he was woeful, essentially playing the Stéphane Guivarc'h role.
Danny also needs to press because even Dimitar Berbatov has won back possession more than him.
Szalai is a better finisher, can dribble past centre-backs and is more of a distraction to centre-backs than Graham.
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