Pedro Morales: The delicate hidden gem of Málaga (via Zagreb)
STATS ZONE OVER EUROPE: FourFourTwo's award-winning FREE app now also covers the top flights in Italy, Spain, France and Germany (as well as England, Champions League and Europa League). Paul Wilkes - editor of the laligauk.com - uses Stats Zone to analyse a player battling injury to make an impact in Spain...
Morales (left) on his full Malaga debut
When Luka ModriÃÂ left Dinamo Zagreb for the bright lights of London and the Premier League, the Croatian club went to South America for his replacement - Pedro Morales of Club Universidad de Chile.
It didn't work out immediately for Morales, just 23 at the time of his move, but as he entered his second season his performances began to fulfil the promise. But then injury struck and he struggled to have the same desired effect. A loan move back to his native Chile in 2012 enabled him to rediscover his best form, then on transfer deadline day in January he joined forces with countryman Manuel Pellegrini at MÃÂ¡laga in another temporary move.
The Andalusians had once been able to spend big money on the likes of JoaquÃÂn and Santi Cazorla, but now their financial situation is very different. Now they rely on players like Morales,who have the ability but haven't always reached their potential. The Chilean's impact in the south of Spain has been impressive - he's scored twice and provided three assists in just four starts, but his lack of fitness slowed him down somewhat, and he has so far only once completed a full 90 minutes.
In his full debut against Rayo Vallecano, he started from a wide left position, but often drifted inside to receive the ball in a central area. His passes were more reminiscent of an attacking central midfielder, as he covered large parts of the final two-thirds of the pitch. In that match he scored once and created his team's other two goals in a 3-1 win which broke a run of four matches without a victory.
Then in the game against Champions League-chasing Real Sociedad, he was the third most prolific passer in the MÃÂ¡laga side, despite only playing just over an hour. His goal just before half-time gave MÃÂ¡laga a little hope, though he was playing in a fringe attacking quartet due to the ill-fated return leg with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League only days later. He then missed the matches with Osasuna and Valencia through injury, before returning to provide Weligton with a goal via another corner against Getafe.
He wasn't selected against Real Madrid last week, and was therefore denied the chance to play against ModriÃÂ, which would have been a great opportunity to compare the two players' styles directly. Morales returned for an Andalusian derby this weekend, but only lasted 45 minutes thanks to the hamstring problems that have blighted him throughout his career.
In that 45 minutes, his influence was clear. Playing from the right-hand side, his understanding with JesÃÂºs GÃÂ¡mez was key, as the right-back played 12 passes to Morales (the most common pass combination of the first half), before the Chilean's early withdrawal. Morales attempted six crosses from the right and created one goalscoring opportunity in the first half.
The injuries that have plagued the midfielder could cause MÃÂ¡laga to think twice about making the deal permanent, but when fully fit he is without doubt a talent that would light up many a side. The solid displays may lead to Dinamo Zagreb wanting more money and it's likely that he will have attracted other suitors, which could ultimately price Los Boquerones out of a deal. Instead, they may need to unearth another hidden gem.
Stats Zone is bigger and better than ever! Our FREE Opta-powered app now features the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Champions League and Europa League.