Pablo Piatti, Valencia’s versatile new Argentine with a bright future

Grinning from ear to ear as he ushers in his interviewers to chat football, life and future prospects, Pablo Piatti is the archetypical mother’s boy born to a charming family in a farming village just south of Cordoba, Argentina.

Worshipped by his mother, Piatti looked up to his father and knew from a young age that football was the only thing he enjoyed doing – that and being bottle fed until the age of nine.

Regularly out enjoying a kick about with his friends when he was young, his schoolwork began to suffer and his parents subsequently banned him from football as punishment. Forced to concentrate on his studies and denied his daily ice cream treat, he took to lying so that he could sneak off and indulge in his hobby. An act of mischief, it led to him attracting wide interest in his talent. As Piatti recalled when talking to El Pais this week, from when his father took him to watch the local team train, all he wanted was ‘boots and footballs’.

Bold and blessed with blistering pace, his insatiable appetite for the sport coupled with an intelligent movement on the pitch earned him a chance to play for his first club – Jorge Ross. Growing stronger, more determined and even more skilful, the Solari family who had followed the diminutive player for quite sometime offered him the chance to play in the respected Renato Cesarini club – a footballing academy renowned for creating stars.

Considering their tie to the academy, it was only a matter of time before River Plate came calling, but interestingly, Piatti decided to reject their advances. Some reasoned it had to do with the fact his father was a Boca Juniors fan but the boy was so sure of his talent, he knew the chance to play for an established team would come again and indeed it did.

Speaking to El Pais, he regularly attributes all his success to his father, never failing to compliment the man who passed away six years ago at a young age. Much like his son, Piatti senior, a one-time amateur footballer, was renowned for his pace, quick feet, exquisite left foot and of course, his tiny stature.

Advising his son on everything from his position on the field to how he portrayed himself in front of Coaches, Piatti senior lived vicariously through his son since his own dreams of being a player were cut short. Telling him to practice one-twos, encouraging him to develop an affinity with the ball and penalising him for any silly errors – little Pablo is very much his father’s son and a product of familiar love.

“My father was the best thing for me. He taught me the one essential quality to have in one’s life in order to succeed and what needs to be practiced every day: humility.”

An obedient boy, Pablo started his career as a second striker before then being tried as a centre-forward. His ability to exploit space and intelligently turn and run saw him score an abundance of goals and one dazzling display eventually convinced Estudiantes de la Plata to invest in the player. It was there that the boy came across Diego Simeone – the Coach who handed him his debut and who from that moment on was regarded as his mentor and the most influential figure in his professional career.

Making his debut against Newell’s Old Boys, the tiny striker who measured just 163cm scored with a header to announce himself to Argentina. Surrounded by such tall defenders, even Piatti was surprised at how well he did on his debut but the player’s vertical play and stunning movement delighted the fans and Coach Simeone. Inevitably, it was not long before he earned the nickname “Messi de la Plata” as he showcased an ability to spin away from defenders in similar fashion to the Catalan No 10.

Transferred to Almeria, the player was converted into a winger and from there, developed a flexibility to his play – adapting to most positions in midfield and excelling in each one. Starting out well by scoring 12 goals in 19 League games, he did experience a rough period before finally excelling again in a manner everyone predicted he would. One need only watch his performance away to Sevilla in which he scored twice to truly understand his potential.

“I knew nothing of Almeria and had to look them up on the internet. I took a chance and came over. The first year was very difficult: training and the games surprised me. Everything here is a lot faster.”

Hungry for spaces to attack, Piatti moves effortlessly between the lines and if he is not scoring, then he is searching for that perfect ball to assist another. His tremendous speed causes insurmountable problems for the opposition who are forever trailing behind in an effort to catch up as he surges ahead, perfectly executing counter-attacks.

Ideally played as an enganche behind the strikers, he has demonstrated his ability to play in most positions and in whatever formation. Whether that be a 4-3-3 or a classic 4-4-2, Piatti can adapt to most tactics and has proven capable of playing on either side of the pitch. So far we have seen new club Valencia deploy him on the left hand side as either a winger in a 4-4-1-1 formation – as was the case against Genk – or further forward, in a 4-2-3-1.

In the first game against Racing Santander, he was played in what is probably his preferred position, just behind the striker in the middle, but he failed to impress in his first official outing and many criticised him for offering little in attack. Nonetheless his skills best suit that position, as it is there that one can truly delight in his vertical method of play as well as his ability to exploit the movements of the teammates around him.

Previously tracked by Udinese, a side with an eye for talent, Valencia look to have captured a player many describe as a perfect fit for them. A club heralded for their ability to spot great talent and develop it even further. Indeed, Piatti has commented on the influence Unai Emery is having on his preparation and set-up in games – it appears the ambitious Piatti has finally arrived at a club worthy of his talent and keen to exploit it.

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