Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Player profile: Ezequiel Lavezzi

Name: Ezequiel Lavezzi
DOB: May 3 1985
Former Clubs: Estudiantes, Genoa, San Lorenzo, Napoli
Signed: July 2012, €30million
International: Full Argentina international

PSG’s latest big-money recruit is a man of many nicknames.

Ezequiel Lavezzi is known variously as la Bestia (The Beast), el Loco (The Crazy) and, most famously, el Pocho (The Chubby one). I’m up for combining the three and christening him el Beslocho, but I’m not convinced it’ll catch on.

A winger-cum-forward noted for his power and work-rate, Lavezzi has cost QSI €30million, and the 27-year-old has signed a four-year-contract at the Parc des Princes.

At an early age Lavezzi was also christened the New Maradona. I have no facts to back this up, but it’s probably true since approximately 96.5 per cent of young Argentinean forward acquire this title at some point in their careers, despite the fact that approximately 95.6 per cent of them end up being the new Facundo Sava.

After being bombed out by Maradona’s old club, Boca Juniors, young Pocho ended up at Estudiantes (insert footballing education joke here) where he played in 2003/04, scoring 17 goals in 39 appearances.

With statistics like that he was never going to stay in South America long, and he was soon snapped up by Genoa for a bargain basement fee of €1million. However, he barely had time to acquaint himself with the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, as his new employers immediately despatched him back to Argentina, where he joined San Lorenzo on a season-long loan.

Lavezzi did pretty well for the Buenos Aires-based outfit, which was lucky as back in Italy bad shit was going down at Genoa. The club had become embroiled in a match-fixing scandal which saw them relegated to Serie C1 meaning that, in summer 2005, Lavezzi joined San Lorenzo permanently for €1.2million.

“Lavezzi already had good qualities back then,” Genoa president Enrico Preziosi said in an interview earlier this year.

“We also had Diego Milito in our squad and we couldn’t afford to keep any of them. It was a real shame that we had to sell him. We would have been able to keep him here for two or three years.”

Genoa’s loss was very much San Lorenzo’s gain, the forward playing a key role as his team romped to the Closura title in 2006/07. A return to Europe was only a matter of time, and newly promoted Napoli coffed up €6million later that summer.

Here the spectre of Maradona, whose spell at the San Paolo is the stuff of legend, loomed large once more, but to his credit Lavezzi took it all in his stride, and together with another new recruit, Marek Hamsik, they established Napoli as a Serie A force to be reckoned with.

The arrival of the dashing Edison Cavani in the summer of 2010 brought together the attacking trio which would be known as the Three Tenors. Lavezzi, Hamsik and Cavani fired Walter Mazzarri’s side into the Champions League thanks to a third place finish in 2010/11, and it’s fair to say they were one of the most eye-catching teams in Europe last season. Lavezzi scored twice in their 3-1 first leg win over Chelsea in the last 16, but the eventual European Champions came through in the second leg to send Napoli crashing out.

Mazzarri believes Lavezzi has progressed dramatically during his time with Napoli: "Lavezzi has made ​​great strides," he said. "He is scoring with more consistency, he has matured and has become a champion."

“Cavani is a great player, but I think that Lavezzi is more important [to Napoli],” said former Azzurri coach Zednek Zemen. “[Napoli] are very good defensively and they are very impressive on the counter-attack thanks to the skills of Lavezzi.” 

Team-mates are also happy to join the Lavezzi love-in: "The Argentine is extraordinary," said Napoli striker Goran Pandev. "He has great technique and he’s magnificent in one-on-one situations.”

Linked with Chelsea and Manchester City last season, he has chosen instead to move to Paris, and will bring with him his missus, Yanina Screpante, who is definitely worth a google if you don’t know what she looks like.

“I'm here to win titles,” declared the forward at his unveiling. “Ligue 1 is a very competitive league. It's a new challenge for me, and I love putting myself to the test.

“I will do my best to have the same relationship with the Parisian fans that I had with the fans in Naples. I want to create a real link between us."

Only time will tell whether or not he succeeds on either front.


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