Arsene Wenger has a keen eye for top, young talent. One player who could emerge this season and go on to make an impact as great as Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy in the coming seasons, is a Mexican by the name of Carlos Vela.
Arsenal's fans know little about the player dubbed the new "Hugo Sanchez," even though he was signed back in November of 2005 from Mexican outfit Guadalajara. His progress has had to be monitored from afar as he was immediately loaned out to the Spanish side Celta Vigo due to work permit complications.
Vela has stayed in Spain ever since being signed by Arsenal. After his spell with Celta Vigo he was then loaned out to Salamanca, a Spanish second division club, where he scored eight goals in 31 appearances during the 2006/07 season.
His performances in the Spain's second tier earned many plaudits and several La Liga teams became interested in loaning Vela for the 2007/08 season. Vela opted to join Osasuna where he appeared 33 times, notching a further three goals, including a stunning strike against Real Betis.
Wenger explained that loaning Vela to Spain was designed to make it "easier for him to adapt to Europe as there are several similarities between the Spanish and Mexican cultures."
It appears as though every effort is being made by Arsenal to ensure that Vela develops to his full potential. Potential that was first noticed back in 2005 when he finished as top scorer at the FIFA Under-17 World Championships, scoring five goals and helping Mexico win the competition.
His performances in the tournament had Europe's most prestigious clubs sniffing around. Arsenal won the race to sign the highly rated youngster, and along with Geovanni dos Santos who moved to Barcelona, the two most instrumental players of the Mexican teams success had earned their big moves to Europe.
My knowledge of Vela's performances extends little beyond the odd piece of outrageous skill shown on "Soccer AM's" showboat segment, and on Football Manager, where Vela often develops into a "world-class" player.
From my experience, top players in the football manager game series tend to be at least half-decent in real life. It appears Vela is going to be a lot more than half decent though.
Wenger has stated that he expects Vela to be challenging for a first team place this coming season, after he managed to obtain a work permit which now allows him to play in England.
Wenger also went on to describe Vela as "a good passer of the ball and an excellent finisher," and has also commented that "he has intelligent movement with very good technique and great pace," suggesting he is a player of similar ilk to Eduardo.
Vela has since gone on to make his debut for Mexico's senior side, scoring four goals in seven appearances.
It sounds to me as though Wenger may have just unearthed another gem of a player, and I, for one, look forward seeing his talent displayed in the red and white of Arsenal this season.