Dani Pacheco, Liverpool’s Cesc Fabregas


Daniel Pacheco, Spain and Liverpool's young talent

It is the summer of 2007. A product of Barcelona’s famed youth academy has just been snapped up by a leading Premier League side. Hopes are high for the youngster. Comparisons are made with Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas. Have the Catalans let another young gem slip through their fingers? Liverpool hope that the answer is yes, as they unveil their new starlet. His name is Daniel Pacheco.

The player’s youth coach, Garcia Pimienta, was justifiably upset at the young Spaniard’s move to Merseyside. “It is a great loss for the club because he is a forward with a lot of quality, he has been our top goal scorer (scoring 30 goals in the previous season) and has already played for the youth team. He is one of the cadets we had the most hope for, but nothing can be done anymore. Everything happened very suddenly.”

Fast forward three years, and Pacheco is a central figure in Spain’s march to the final of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in France, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer. They eventually lose to the host nation, but those who had monitored his progress on Merseyside are hopeful that Pacheco’s performances are a taste of what is to come. The coach, Luis Milla, is full of praise. “We all know the quality Dani has; he’s always looking for space to exploit. I think he still needs to improve his work when he doesn’t have the ball – which he is doing – and if he can perfect that, he’ll be a great player.”

Progress since then has been slow. While his summer was spent rippling nets and tiring ‘keepers for his country – and providing the rest of us with a reason to watch Eurosport – he has since been limited to reserve team football and just a handful of first-team appearances. No one who saw his performances in the summer could doubt Pacheco’s potential. No one could doubt he deserves regular football of some sort.

Visit any of the Liverpool forums on the internet, particularly the larger ones, and you will notice a significant body of support for the Spaniard. Questions are routinely asked by frustrated button-bashers as to why he isn’t playing every week. It is not hard to see how such dissatisfaction forms. Liverpool’s performances this season have been largely lacklustre, particularly away from home. Pacheco seems like the type of player to inject a spark, a bit of life, into a side.

There have been problems for the player though. Roy Hodgson was never keen on playing him regularly, which was regrettable. There were always questions surrounding the judgement of the now ex-manager though, after he signed Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen. Even if he had played regularly, he would have struggled to prosper in a side that seemed to have been encouraged to play long-ball football. As an attacking force, Hodgson’s Liverpool were been epitomised by a dejected Fernando Torres and a willingness on the manager’s part to stick Sotirios Kyrgiakos up front as a target man if chasing the game in the last 10 minutes. (Oh how we laughed at Jose Mourinho throwing Robert Huth up front in the final throes of a Champions League semi-final!) It is hard to see a wiry forward of five feet, six inches, whose strength lies with his intelligence and with the ball at his feet, fitting in seamlessly with such a philosophy.

There is obviously uncertainty surrounding Kenny Dalglish’s appointment. There are few clues as to how The King will set his sides up. Hopefully he will be fully aware of Pacheco’s ability. Indeed, given his work with the club’s academy, you would expect that to be the case. When a permanent manager is appointed in the summer, he is likely to be an individual given the job with the development and use of young talent in mind.

A loan move to a good side in England or Spain may be the best short-term option for Pacheco. It would provide him with regular football at a high level. This opportunity would give him a platform to improve certain aspects of his game and become accustomed to playing against some of the best players in the world. Jack Wilshire moved to Bolton on loan last season. His regular performances there benefited him (and Bolton), and he has become a regular fixture in the Arsenal starting XI this time around. The signing of a new contract in December suggests Pacheco is happy to bide his time. Liverpool fans should be thankful for his patience.

Comparisons with Pique and Fabregas have had no reason to stop. Three and a half years on from signing for Liverpool though, it is a case of choosing to follow one or the other. At Arsenal, Fabregas’ talent was recognised early on. Aged 17, he made his league debut at the start of the 2004-05 season, and became a regular in the starting eleven during the following campaign. Pique suffered contrasting fortunes in England, finding his opportunities ultimately limited at Old Trafford. He returned to Barcelona. Pacheco may shun the example of Arsenal’s captain and do likewise if Liverpool do not allow his talents to shine.

by Liam Milner (follow Liam on Twitter)

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upper90magazine brings you an interesting, exciting, alternative, sometimes, controversial view on the footballing world. We will review everything football, from cold gloomy Non-League games to the thrills and spill of the Champions League.

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