When Sunderland 'won' the 'battle' to sign Argentine full-back Marcos Angeleri, quite a few of us got excited. He looked like he had everything; Pace, Power, Strength... We've found a suitable alternative to massively over-priced Alan Hutton! Well done Steve Bruce.
However those days seem very long ago, as all we've seen is a bun-wearing ponce who looks completely out of his depth so far in his limited cameo appearances.
How we wondered what he was like, and spent hours scouring YouTube and looking for reports on what he was like. Oh look, he won the Copa Libertadores! He's on the fringes of the national team! Inter & Monaco want him too, hurry up Brucey! ...and so on and so forth.
While fans grow impatient for the long haired latin lovely to produce something on the pitch, the gaffer has other ideas "It would be very premature to write him off. South American players need time to settle in, as I have always said."
Quite right too, but by now he surely should be showing a bit more? Bruce has sung the praises of Angeleri in training, and cited an injury sustained on the pre-season tour of Portugal, but to me it seems clear Bruce doesn't rate the lad, as he's only managed 7 minutes of Premiership football, and a highly disappointing 69 minutes in the FA Cup defeat to League One side Notts County.
I fear something is up. So I turned to someone who has seen Marcos back in his homeland with Estudiantes on a regular basis. Sam Kelly is an Englishman based in Buenos Aires, and covers the Argentine game fantastically on his own website; Hasta El Gol Siempre as well as on his "Hand Of Pod" Podcast, nevermind various appearances on ESPN Soccernet, In Bed With Maradona and on the pages of WSC. Safe to say, this guy knows his stuff.
I started off asking about how highly rated Angeleri was in Argentina. It was Bruce himself who said "He's one of the best Argentine full-backs in recent years." Sam agreed, but offered a slight word of caution...
Bear in mind, though, that we're talking about a nation that's never replaced Juan Pablo Sorín at left back, and is still using the (admittedly phenomenal) 37-year-old Javier Zanetti on the right. Angeleri was a regular in a very, very good Estudiantes team – a club who were then, and have continued to be since, one of the best-run and most consistent in South America. I'd go so far as to say that in my opinion, if he hadn't suddenly stalled on joining Sunderland, he'd be staking his claim for the left back spot in the national side by now.
As previously mentioned, we wondered about how close Marcos really was to getting on the plane to South Africa. Now nobody can predict the inner workings of Maradona's mind, but Sam gave it his best go...
It did look that way, in spite of Maradona's stated pre-tournament desire to use centre backs in the full back positions because they offer greater defensive stability (yes, seriously), for which reason Zanetti didn't make the cut. Bear in mind that when he went back on this after naming the squad, though, he felt it was better to use Jonás Gutiérrez at right back than Nico Burdisso, who had at least played a fair few games in the position before. Angeleri may or may not have been in the squad if fit, but that's go little to do with how good or bad he is.
Sam was quick to pour skepticism on the rumours that he was once upon a time heading to the San Siro, but perhaps Monaco were in the hunt for him...
I'd be surprised if Inter was anything more than his agent trying to drum up interest by mentioning the then newly-crowned European champions. As for Monaco, there seemed to be a bit more substance to that one.
Perhaps it's just a case of Angeleri not being able to adapt. Bruce noted, and several other fans that he was injured prior to signing for us. Our man Sam agreed with Steve Bruce that it could have had a major effect on his performances this season...
He was injured when he signed, and I wonder whether that affected his pre-season and thus Bruce's subsequent confidence in him. For whatever reason, he didn't go straight into the team at the start of the season, and that seems to have affected his own confidence as well. The cultural adjustment is also a big one to make. All of that is going to affect him when he's on the pitch doing his job. It's not only about the playing side of things, sadly.
I had noticed that Angeleri had played a fair bit in teh middle of defence for Estudiantes, and thats stands to reason looking at his physical attributes, but Sam disagreed that that's where his future could lie in a Sunderland shirt, however another role could suit him better...
Estudiantes tend to have a fair amount of possession in their matches and manage the ball very well, which takes a lot of the pressure off their centre backs. I'm not sure how well he'd adjust to that position given the different demands of the English game, though it would be interesting (for a non-Sunderland fan, perhaps!) to see. Instead, I'd think about pushing him forward to a wide midfield role, perhaps.
However, in the afore mentioned YouTube videos, one stood out in particular, and I'm sure you know which one. Sam (along with many an SAFC fan) was left scratching his head about who, what and why? (See the video in question here)
Wow. I haven't a clue. But isn't he dreamy...
Sorry, what was the question?
And so we're all still left wondering about the future of Angeleri. Steve Bruce (who see's him every day), and the Sam Kelly (who has seen him in action more times than any of us) both think there's still something in the lad. I'm willing to put some trust in these guys. I hope he makes it and we haven't squandered more money, but it's looking increasing like we'll have to wait to see him hit his top form, or indeed any form. Let's not write him off just yet.
For now though we'll thank Sam Kelly of Hasta El Gol Siempre for his thoughts and opinions, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that Marcos comes good. I just hope the real Marcos makes himself known sooner, rather than later.
"Guarde La Fe" ...as they'd say in Angeleri's homeland.