The Enganche Position
Historically , the Albicelestes have had some tremendous players playing this key role. In the more recent past, The Legend himself (1994), to Ortega(1998-2002), Veron, Aimar,(1998, 2002) (The FANTASTIC ) Riquelme (2006) have all been the owners of the keys that drives the beast. Shockingly, Maradona himself gave himself very little options to choose from when he took charge of the NT in 2010. Batista went one worse by trying to mimic the Barca system and magically hoping against hope and time that two of Banega/Gago/Cambiasso would magically turn into a Xavi and Iniesta combo for Messi and the false no. 9 experiment.
There’s very little to go by when it comes to predicting what Sabella would do. Stressing on defensive and midfield solidarity, there’d be place for a sole attacking midfielder to play a True Enganche role. Veron, the Estudiantes legend , is familiar with Sabella, but it’s not set in stone that Veron would be the choice. Let’s take a look at the candidates:
From the above table, it’s quite obvious that Riquelme is (or was in a league of his own ) when compared to the other candidates. Riquelme is probably the DEFINITION of an Enganche. Riquelme’s class beyond question. However , he has been injury prone of late. Other than Riquelme, Veron and Pastore, 2 intriguing options are Lucho Gonzalez and Diego Valeri.
Lucho has been in good form of late in the French league. On his day, he can be extremely effective (the Brazil WCQ comes to mind), and on others, just absolutely fade away. Compared to the other 2 established stars from the past, Lucho still has age on his side to help the team for the next couple of years.
Valeri is another interesting option. He’s a player with a lot of undelivered promise, but is probably the closest to a natural Enganche role after Riquelme in that list. He takes a lot of set-pieces for Lanus, giving us an option from corners and indirect free kicks. He also has age , pace and stamina on his side, something that the other seniors cannot guarantee just yet.
Pastore is the future without a doubt. He has made a big money move to PSG and the pressure is on him to live upto the billing and take PSG to the upper echelons of Europe. Burdening him with the Enganche role with the NT could be a high risk –high reward situation. Something tells me that he still needs a little bit of burden sharing or mentoring . I am a big fan of his personally, but I’ve never seen him take dead ball situations with his limited time with the NT or with Palermo in the past (maybe someone can correct me on this).
We believe the following will happen:
- Pastore will be selected as part of the squad. He has done nothing wrong so far, and has shown immense potential, and understanding with Messi. The only doubt in our minds is that he may not be a true “Enganche”. He’s in fact more like a Messi himself – a CF.
- Veron disqualifies himself because of his age. He is an extremely short term option, and going with him adds very little to the future
- . As much as it hurts me to say this, but Riquelme may not be an option either. I am one of his biggest fans, but this is the time to move forward. Riquelme’s inclusion often demands a system to be made with him at the core, and I am not sure if he provides Sabella the flexibility that the latter typically loves.
- Valeri as mentioned is a definite option who might see his name called up for the local NT games against Brazil. He might need to prove himself there as a stepping stone to the NT
- Lucho Gonzalez is the one player who may need to return to the NT and be the perfect stop gap for this role. He just turned 30 and can provide a good 2-3 years more. He has the vision and sting in his shot. He also has leadership abilities , and can transition the NT to the future. Though Sabella might not consider him, Lucho Gonzalez should be picked for the NT.
Our Squad pick for Enganche and AMF: Lucho Gonzalez and Javier Pastore