While there is no doubt about Argentina's attacking powers, the back line of the immensely talented national team has always raised doubts. In recent years the country has produced a stream of exciting and superlative attacking players. However, we could hardly name a defender from the soccer powerhouse who could emulate its great Roberto Ayala.
There have been great defensive-minded players, more like defensive midfielders, popularly known as the number 5s. After all, who would not like a Javier Mascherano or Fernando Gago or Estenan Cambiasso in the team? However, the back four has been a problem for quite some time now.
While Martin Demichelis has given some sort of hope in the central defensive position, one position that has become a real problem is the left back position. Let's take a look at the options that are there.
1. Gabriel Heinze
That's the first name that comes to mind, and we have to accept the combative defender has lost his edge. His last season at Manchester United showed clearly the decline in form. He was ripped apart by Kaka in Champions League. Since then he has moved to Real Madrid and survived, though not quite handsomely, not quite the Gabriel Heinze we know.
2. Fabian Monzon
The kid did good at the Olympics. His attacking mind is not bad, neither he is very bad at defending. He has another ability—a scorching shot, especially from free kicks. He is the young guy who could solve some problems in future, but we do not know yet. He is plying his trades in La Liga with Real Betis and hopefully will move up the ladder.
This actually brings us to the most promising name in the short list—Emiliano Insua. When a young football player signs up to play under a manager like Rafa Benitez or Jose Mourinho, you know one thing for sure: If the kid survives, he will be a good student of the game. This is more true if the player is a defensive one.
Rafa Benitez's Valencia in early 2000s was a force no one wanted to face. Roberto Ayala bossing the backline was a hard defense to crack. Add to that Rafa Benitez's managerial capabilities, and Valencia was quite a handful for most of the European teams.
A name which may have been forgotten but always remained with Rafa is Mauricio Pellegrino, the Argentine defender who missed the penalty in Champions League. Rafa got Pellegrino along with him when we came to Anfield. Pellegrino was the first Argentine to play for Liverpool.
Mauricio Pellegrino was not brought in to play 90 minutes every weekend—he was brought in to master the complex zonal marking defending as compared to the popular man marking. Pellegrino is an integral part to Liverpool's coaching system, and those who know the face can see him right there in the front row of the Liverpool bench.
Hence, it is no longer very surprising that Emiliano Insua is coming up as a good player. The short 19-year-old played three 90-minutes games in a short span and looks like he has grabbed the place with both hands.
Here are the highlights of his game.
1. Very good participation in offensive duties.
2. Very neat defending.
3. Excellent game reading capabilities—is it Rafa and Pellegrino?
4. Good ability to cross the balls.
5. Neat touch—after all, he is Argentine.
6. A good shot.
7. And above all—doing the basics right.
Emiliano Insua could solve Rafa Benitez's left back problems for now, but he might be giving Diego Maradona some good sleep at night too.