Alvaro Negredo has been Manchester City's biggest, most pleasant surprise this season primarily because before this season started most City fans could not have picked The Beast out of a police lineup.
That is what happens when a player excels in relative anonymity, as Negredo did at Sevilla in La Liga for the past four seasons.
No disrespect intended, but when most Premier League supporters hear "La Liga," thoughts flash to Lionel Messi and Barcelona, or Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid. For that matter, they may think of Radamel Falcao, who starred at Atletico Madrid before moving to AS Monaco last summer.
Sevilla finished ninth in La Liga the past two seasons despite Negredo's 39 league goals in 66 appearances (62 starts). Being the leading scorer on a mid-table club is about as enthralling as it sounds.
“At this point in time the Premier is stronger than La Liga,” Negredo recently told James Robson of the Manchester Evening News. “It is harder to beat West Brom or Sunderland than a Spanish side from mid table. The gap between Barcelona, Real, Atletico and the others has become too big."
That chasm between the haves and have-nots in La Liga may have convinced Negredo to move to the Premier League. His arrival at City this past summer, though, fell into the news cycle with the acquisitions of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic.
The prevailing narrative around City last summer was of how much money they spent, not so much whether any one of the signings was seismic.
As the season hurtles toward money time, though, Negredo's emergence as City's second-best striker (behind Sergio Aguero) is, in retrospect, mildly surprising but totally welcome.
Negredo's 23 goals in all competitions trails only Aguero's 26 for City this season. As Robson observed, Negredo "has formed the deadliest strike-partnership in the Premier League" with Aguero.
There is an argument for Fernandinho in this space.
The Brazilian midfield ace has made more starts for City in all competitions (30) than anyone other than Yaya Toure. And Fernandinho's probable absence against Barcelona in Champions League play this week is cause for real concern, per David Lynch of the Manchester Evening News.
In the preseason, though, the idea that Fernandinho would become a midfield mainstay and play quiet, solid defensive football was not exactly shocking.
But few if any predicted that Negredo would so conclusively unseat Edin Dzeko as City's second striking option, or score so many goals in doing so.
With Aguero still ailing, City will need to find goals elsewhere against Barcelona. City boss Manuel Pellegrini may be loath to break up Jovetic and Dzeko, who combined beautifully for City's first goal in their 2-0 victory that put Chelsea out of the FA Cup.
When Aguero comes back, though, expect to see Pellegrini reunite him with Negredo in hopes that their fireworks displays from earlier this season will repeat.