Luis Muriel: Colombian Ronaldo High Risk, High Reward for Sampdoria

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 12, 2015

UDINE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 04:  Luis Muriel of Udinese Calcio celebrates after scoring his teams second goal  during the TIM Cup match between Udinese Calcio and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Friuli on February 4, 2014 in Udine, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

Udinese have ended the process of developing Colombian centre-forward Luis Muriel, 23, into a world-class footballer by selling him to Sampdoria, pending the completion of a medical.

Despite imitating some of Brazilian FIFA World Cup winner Ronaldo Luis' moves, Muriel is a high risk, high reward transfer for Sampdoria.

Having relinquished Manolo Gabbiadini to Napoli for €13/£10.2 millionSampdoria have counterbalanced that transfer by signing Muriel from Udinese for €12/£9.4 million plus €3/£2.4 million in add-ons.

Serie A 2014-15Luis MurielManolo Gabbiadini
Games Started %45.584.6
Goals/Games0/117/13
Shots Per Goal07
Shooting Accuracy %27.340.8
Assists12
Key Passes Per 90 Minutes2.91.4
Pass Success %74.674.2
Credit: WhoScored.com.

Gabbiadini's goals scored, shots per goal and shooting accuracy are substantially better than Muriel.

For Muriel to be valued €1 million less than Gabbiadini is absurd.

The difference in their transfer fees should be bigger as their career trajectories are headed in opposite directions: Gabbiadini, north; Muriel, south.

The only silver lining is Muriel's direct running opens up space and he is a willing passer, hence his key passes per 90 minutes rating is higher than Gabbiadini's.

Sampdoria have not taken a moneyball approach to signing Muriel.

Bottoming out and without a goal in 371 Serie A minutes, Muriel's transfer stock should have been in the low seven figures.

But having extended Muriel's contract until 2018, Udinese held leverage and presumably pushed the envelope during negotiations, perhaps sensing how desperate Sampdoria were.

Sampdoria manager Sinisa Mihajlovic confirming Muriel as his main January transfer target explains why the transfer fee inflated to €12/£9.4 million.

"[Muriel is] the only player I really wanted," Mihajlovic said, per La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Selene Scarsi at ESPN FC). "[Muriel] did so well at Lecce, then lost himself in the last few years [at Udinese], which was partly his own fault, but here he'll find his motivation again [at Sampdoria]."

The "partly his own fault" line from Mihajlovic is a reference to Muriel's careless, at times bordering on nonexistent, approach to dieting.

It was a source of frustration for former Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin, who could not understand why Muriel, a world-class talent, was self-sabotaging his career.

"If [Muriel] wants to talk with me, he should lose five pounds," Guidolin said, per La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Doug Patient at Goal). "I repeat, [Muriel] does not speak with me until he has a physique of an athlete."

Six months after Guidolin called out Muriel, he still had not got his act together.

"I'm sorry I will continue to harass [Muriel] on his physical form," Guidolin said, per Football Italia. "[I will not stop] until he reaches peak fitness."

Muriel alluded to his injury layoffs factoring into his increased body fat.

"If I stop [training] even for just a week I immediately put on weight," Muriel said, per the Guardian. "I can only eat salad."

There is a perception that top-flight athletes live a charmed life, so instead of slamming Muriel for not being grateful of his status as a professional footballer, you should be open-minded.

Possessing a playing style based around dynamism, quick feet and stop-start movements means it makes no rational sense for Muriel to consciously overeat. 

Maybe he eats normally, but suffers from an undiagnosed medical problem which leads to rapid weight gain, like Ronaldo, who only learnt of his debilitating illness at 30 years of age.

"[Four years ago] I discovered I was suffering from a complaint called hypothyroidism, which slows down your metabolism," Ronaldo said, per CNN. "To control it I would have to take some hormones that are not permitted in football because of anti-doping [rules]."

Muriel can relate to Ronaldo in terms of the constant rehabilitation plus the yo-yoing weight loss and gain.

What Muriel cannot relate to Ronaldo is scoring prolifically and living up to the hype. 

Ronaldo, at the time a 20-year-old, scored more league goals during the 1996-97 season for Barcelona (34 goals in 37 games) than Muriel has done in his last four Serie A seasons (22 goals in 86 games).

At 23 years of age, Ronaldo was a two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, a squad member of Brazil's 1994 FIFA World Cup-winning team and received the Golden Ball at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Meanwhile, Muriel's biggest achievement thus far was being named an outstanding player at the FIFA U20 World Cup, per FIFA.com: "Pacey, dangerous and very hard-running attacker."

"They tell me that I have [Ronaldo's] explosiveness but I don't see similarities. I swear that I don't think about him on the pitch," Muriel said, per James Horncastle at Eurosport. "I always repeat that if I were to do 50 percent of what [Ronaldo achieved], I'd be a happy footballer."

Here is the high risk, high reward for Sampdoria.

  • High reward: Muriel emulates 50 percent of Ronaldo in his prime.
  • High risk: Muriel continues to struggle with his weight, his wretched injury record worsens, and he becomes more alike to compatriot Faustino Asprilla—described by former teammate Ian Rush as "notoriously inconsistent"—than Ronaldo.

+allanjiang.

When not specified, statistics via WhoScored.com

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