Here is a scouting report on Sevilla's 27-year-old Colombian international centre-forward Carlos Bacca, who is on his way to becoming one of La Liga's best strikers.
Bacca was a late bloomer as he made his first foray into European football via Club Brugge at 25 years of age.
He gritted his teeth through the tough times: He only scored three times in his first season and had three different managers during his two-season stint at Brugge in Christoph Daum, Georges Leekens and Juan Carlos Garrido.
During Bacca's final season for Brugge, he scored 28 goals in a total of 44 club games.
Belgium football expert John Chapman speculated that a transfer away was likely due to Bacca's rising transfer stock—his golazo against Feyenoord in a friendly game helped increase his name recognition.
"His problem is that his salary is low in footballing terms, around €500,000 per annum," Chapman wrote, per Belgofoot.be. "His agent has found clubs willing to pay around €3.5 million for his services."
When Sevilla came calling, Bacca was finally set to play in one of Europe's elite leagues.
Nunca los olvidaré! pic.twitter.com/YVCogabCnF— carlosbacca (@carlos7bacca) July 9, 2013
"I am already 27 years old so for me this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Bacca said, per Brugge's official website. "When I came to Europe it has always been my dream to play in the Primera Division."
Under Sevilla manager Unai Emery, Bacca either leads the line as a centre-forward in a 4-2-3-1 or plays in a front two alongside Kevin Gameiro in a 4-4-2.
Statistically Evaluating Bacca
|Player||Goals/Games||Shots Per Goal||Assists||Key Passes|
Bacca has only started 77.3 percent of La Liga games in which he has been involved and his sub-affected games percentage is 72.7. He could be around the 15-20 goal mark right now if he given the same undisputed status as Real Madrid left attacking midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo, whose sub-affected games percentage is 4.8.
What makes Bacca so difficult to handle is him being a dual threat to score or create: He has five league assists, which is more than Barcelona centre midfielder Andres Iniesta (four), Real Madrid attacking midfielder Isco (three) and Athletic Bilbao attacking midfielder Ander Herrera (three).
1 - Carlos Bacca is the first Sevilla player to score & assist in a home game in La Liga this season. Stellar— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 24, 2013
Bacca's Playing Style
Bacca will exploit shoddy defending, a skill shown in a 3-1 win over Espanyol.
Their centre-backs, Hector Moreno and Sidnei, instinctively shifted towards Sevilla right attacking midfielder Jairo, who ended up straying into offside territory.
This opened a hole and Bacca burst through on goal, though this would not have happened if Espanyol left-back Fuentes had not been out of position.
He tried desperately to cut off the run, but Bacca pushed the ball ahead, outpaced Fuentes and finished past Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
During a Sevilla set-piece situation in a 4-1 defeat to Barcelona, Bacca headed an Ivan Rakitic free-kick past Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who was bailed out by the post.
Bacca was unchallenged as he was not marked by 6'3" Barca centre-back Gerard Pique because they were defending zonally for that play.
The 5'11" Bacca was able to manoeuvre into space and win an uncontested header, whereas he probably would not have won the header if he had been marked by Pique.
In a 4-1 win over Rayo Vallecano, there was a comedy of errors resulting in another goal for Bacca.
The entire Rayo right flank was vacant allowing Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno to deliver a cross which led to the ball ricocheting off the crossbar.
Rayo right-back Anaitz Arbilla was ball-watching and did not mark Bacca, who acrobatically pulled off an overhead kick.
It would have been blocked except that Rayo centre-back Saul Niguez jumped out of the way.
In a 2-2 draw against Real Valladolid, centre-back Marc Valiente did not anticipate an obvious lay-off from Sevilla left-forward Vitolo to Bacca.
What Valiente should have done was got in front of Bacca or win the ball from Vitolo—Valiente did neither and Bacca cleanly struck the ball past Valladolid 'keeper Diego Marino.
These examples illustrate Bacca's opportunistic tendencies and it is the same when he is hoping the assistant referee will keep the flag down.
When Bacca was at Brugge, he spoke of his frustrations with assistant referees.
"It's only human to make mistakes, I can't hold it against them," Bacca said, per Brugge's official website. "It's a pity only that it happened a couple of times in a row and that it decided some games."
Bacca is second behind (1.4) Ronaldo in flagged offsides per game (1.7).
Bacca has expert positional awareness in the penalty box and he will continue to thrive in La Liga against teams that do not play fundamental defence.
The counter argument to what appears to be La Liga's deteriorating defence is teams have overpowering attack-minded players.
Five of the top 15 goalscorers in Europe's elite leagues are from La Liga (Ronaldo [Real], Diego Costa [Atleti], Alexis Sanchez [Barca], Antoine Griezmann [Real Sociedad] and Benzema [Real]).
In Bacca's case, he is playing in front of a complete midfielder in Rakitic, who can loft long balls from deep, is a threat from set pieces and leads La Liga in key passes per game (2.7).
Remember, Bacca scored in a 7-3 defeat to Real, hit the post in a 4-1 defeat to Barca and the crossbar in a 3-1 defeat to Atleti.
Martino: "Rakitic, Fazio interest? Sevilla have many top players, also Vitolo, or Bacca... But that doesn't mean they'll come to Barcelona."— barcastuff (@barcastuff) February 10, 2014
"From selling bus tickets to the brink of the world finals in only seven years," per FIFA.com, Bacca plays with a chip on his shoulder because he knows what life was like before he was a professional footballer.
His determined mindset combined with his immense quality is why he is on course to transition into a world-class No. 9.