At 34 years old and still with plenty of football left in the tank, Esteban Cambiasso was not short of options over where to continue his career. The Argentine star could have been expected to follow the example of Juan Sebastian Veron, Diego Milito and other veterans, coming back home to the Primera Division.
The midfielder would have been welcomed with open arms at former clubs Independiente or River Plate. An even more intriguing move would have been a return to Argentinos Juniors, where he briefly appeared in the youth ranks alongside one Juan Roman Riquelme.
Seeing the pair line up in the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona this year, finally debuting at first-team level for the Bicho, would have been a mouth-watering prospect. But alas, football is not built on such fairy tales. The offer Cuchu eventually opted for was nothing if not a surprise.
Esteban Cambiasso, welcome to the KP Stadium and Leicester City!
At least, the East Midlands has an excellent chance of being the Champions League winner's latest football home. The Mirror's Alan Nixon revealed on Saturday that Cambiasso flew in to meet with directors before the Foxes took on Chelsea and is expected to sign a two-year contract. If negotiations do prosper, he would join compatriot Leonardo Ulloa (signed this summer from Brighton) as the second Argentine in Nigel Pearson's squad.
But what exactly would Leicester be receiving in the veteran former Argentina international? A lot will depend on how Cambiasso adapts to the rough and tumble of English football; but after 10 years of exemplary Serie A service, there can be no doubt over his quality.
In Argentine football parlance, Cuchu is a "Number 5," a defensive midfielder entrusted with shielding the back line—but with a twist. Even at an advanced age, his distribution and work rate are exemplary, making him the perfect link between the middle of the pitch and the opposition final third. Cambiasso's tough tackling and surging runs make him the definition of a box-to-box midfielder.
In this case, box-to-box does mean just that. The Argentine has made a habit throughout his career of arriving late in the rival area, just in time to poke the ball home and cap a move for his team. The ultimate example of that is of course his goal during the Albiceleste's 6-0 demolition of Serbia back in 2006. A 26-pass masterclass was rounded off by the midfielder, writing himself into World Cup history.
But that was just one of many over the course of his career. A total of 51 goals in 427 club appearances gives him a more than respectable strike rate of just under one every eight games; not exactly world-beating, but you can count on Cambiasso stepping up for at least four or five per season, more than valuable for a team like Leicester where every point will be crucial in avoiding a tense relegation clash.
There is no doubt that the arrival of Cuchu would be a massive coup for the Foxes. If he can fit in seamlessly to the English game, the veteran's experience, hunger and obvious class should make him indispensable during the club's first season back amongst the big boys.
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