Paul Wilkes sheds light on Denis Suarez, on loan from Saturday's opponents Barcelona and let go by Man City in 2013...
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- Date of birth: January 6, 1994
- Place of birth: Salceda de Caselas, Spain
- Position: Attacking midfield
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Club: Sevilla (on loan); 16 apps, 1 goal
- Former clubs: Celta Vigo, Man City, Barcelona
- Honours: Under-19 Euros (2012)
When Manchester City were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, their plan was to recruit the best players available. But after heavy initial expenditure, they realised their brief needed altering slightly. They still wished to compete for the world's top talent, but they also began placing greater emphasis on youth recruitment. These, however, were the days before chief executive Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain arrived to restructure the academy.
Spaniard Joan Angel-Roman left Espanyol for the Etihad, and his compatriot Denis Suarez joined him two years later from Celta Vigo. The duo were touted as 'new David Silvas' by locals, though neither was able to fulfil their potential in the same manner as their fellow countryman and only made fleeting appearances for Roberto Mancini's first team. Despite receiving incredibly high wages for their age, it wasn't enough to keep them in Manchester and both decided a return to Spain with Barcelona would be best for their development.
After a year with Barcelona B, Suarez moved on loan to Sevilla and was part of the deal that took Ivan Rakitic to the Camp Nou. This is the 20-year-old's first full season in a top flight, but the attacking midfielder doesn't look out of place.
Why you need to know him
The Andalusian side have pulled off a fantastic coup in signing the winger, as he's not due to head back to Barcelona until summer 2016. His switch to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is far from straightforward, but his form has ensured that the Catalans are unlikely to let him leave permanently.
Under the guidance of Unai Emery, Suarez is learning about positional sense to accompany his natural flair. Emery is a strict tactician who demands his attackers work hard off the ball and not shirk their defensive duties. Jose Mourinho is a known admirer of the attacker, and will follow his progress with intrigue.
Suarez has directly replaced Rakitic, but they are very different stylistically. Emery's faith in the youngster has seen him start nine of the team's 11 league matches, and Suarez in turn has rewarded his manager with three assists and a goal.
The Galician-born youngster is comfortable in any of the attacking positions, although he's best suited to a No.10 role. He has featured behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1, and also operated on the left of a 4-4-2, with fellow Barca export Gerard Deulofeu on the opposite flank.
At international level, he won the 2012 Under-19 European Championship with Spain and is now a regular for the U21s. It's only a matter of time before he makes his full debut for La Roja.
The comparisons with Silva aren't completely ill-founded, as Suarez likes to roam between the lines of opposition backlines to slide through-balls into a striker.
As you would expect from a Barcelona player his passing is excellent, and he also has the ability to dribble around opponents and create something from nothing. Suarez is superb from set-pieces and capable of delivering regular quality for his more physically imposing team-mates to feed off. His free-kicks have provided goals for midfielders Stephane Mbia and Vicente Iborra this season.
Suarez's defensive contributions are still short of the required standard, despite Emery's work on the training field to transfer his methods. He isn't particularly strong in the tackle and his aerial ability is certainly lacking.
There are also improvements still to be made where his shooting is concerned. He often finds himself in the penalty area but doesn't score as many goals as he should – just one so far this season, though it was an important late equaliser against Villarreal, after which Sevilla added a last-gasp winner.
Some of this shot-shyness is down to his decision making, and the rest thanks to his desire to supply the frontmen. He will become far less predictable if his markers fear that he can score or make the final pass.
"The transfer of Denis is for two years," proclaimed Sevilla's sporting director Monchi to Radio Marca. "There is no possibility of him going back to Barcelona in the summer.
"Another thing to note is that he can be bought this summer and a potential buyback for Barcelona would automatically be inserted. The current deal ends in June 2016. Whether that will be the end is another issue. It’s a game of poker that we will play in the moment. He’s a Sevilla player for now."
Did you know?
Suarez played just two competitive matches for Manchester City, both in the League Cup. He made his debut by replacing Samir Nasri in a 5-2 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2011/12, before starting (and lasting just an hour) in a 4-2 extra-time defeat to Aston Villa the following season. He'll cost Barcelona £685,000 per game should the Spaniard make their first team, though there's a cut-off point of 10 appearances.
- Shooting 5
- Heading 3
- Passing 8
- Tackling 4
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 9
- Creativity 9
- Work-rate 6
What happens next
Barcelona's transfer ban over the next two windows means the emphasis remains on allowing their La Masia talents the opportunity to prosper. The complex deal in place should see Suarez continue his growth at Sevilla before competing for a place back in Catalonia.
With his namesake Luis, Neymar and Lionel Messi in front of him in the pecking order at the Camp Nou, a starting berth won't be a formality. There's still plenty of time for him to improve and learn, with a deeper role in the mould of Andres Iniesta possible one day.