WHEN Fernando Torres turned on the afterburner to leave a string of West Ham defenders floundering in his slipstream the last thing on anyone’s mind was who had passed to the Spanish superstar for his moment of magic.
For the record it was Emiliano Insua – Liverpool’s unsung hero of the season so far.
Too often the work of the quietly-effective full back is overlooked.
The pass that led to Torres’s superb strike to nail the Hammers on Saturday was the Argentine left back’s second assist of the season.
Offering consistency, strength, solidity, a good ‘engine’ and an attacking instinct, the 20-year-old has played every second for Liverpool this season – and he’s hardly put a foot wrong.
Inusa might not have hit the headlines like Glen Johnson on the opposite flank but you get the impression that’s just the way he likes it.
And while the Cockney mafia from the national press may not have noticed his sterling work in attack and defence, it has clearly not passed Rafa Benitez by.
Every manager has their favourites and there’s no doubt Fabio Aurelio is one of Benitez’s – as evidenced by the manager’s special treatment of the Brazilian last season to make sure he was fit to play in most of the important games.
Having been with him at Valencia too, the classy Brazilian is clearly someone the Spaniard feels he can rely on.
So it says everything that Benitez is keeping faith with the rookie left back he signed from Boca Juniors now that the vastly experienced Aurelio is fit again after injury.
Let’s not forget too that Andrea Dossena – an Italian international – is still at the club and pushing for a place at left back as well.
Yet both players are sat twiddling their thumbs on the bench while a player who is still to clock up 30 appearances for the Reds continues to seize his opportunity.
Not bad for a player that at just 17 left his home country to jet to the other side of the world without having made a first-team appearance for Boca.
The Buenos Aires-born defender was spotted by Benitez’s scouting network starring at youth level for Argentina.
He initially arrived at Anfield on loan but after impressing the Reds’ coaching team he was signed up for the paltry initial fee of £115,000 with Gabriel Paletta used as a makeweight in the deal.
Given Insua’s performances that’s got to rank as one of the best bargains in the league – but that wouldn’t suit certain national newspaper’s anti-Benitez agenda so it’s not something you’re likely to see written in the press anytime soon.
Despite his tender years and the difficulties of adapting to an alien culture, Insua has been a model professional during his time on Merseyside.
He had to bide his time for a chance in the first team and even when it first came he found himself quickly dumped back into the reserves, alerting several potential suitors, including Newcastle.
Turning out for the second-string his talent stood out a mile and, given the attitude of many modern-day footballers, a translated article from an Argentine newspaper criticising Benitez would have come as no surprise.
But not Insua. Instead he knuckled down, played a key role in the reserves winning the league under Gary Ablett, and then later seized his chance in the first team when Aurelio was again struck down by injury.
As Reds coach Mauricio Pellegrini said: “You have to be ready and when Emiliano had the opportunity to play, his performances were really good.”
Insua even managed to get back in favour with Benitez after playing in the South American Under-20 Championships earlier this year.
He hasn’t looked back since.
Fellow squad members who have been quick to whinge about having to wait for an opportunity in the first team would do well to take note of his attitude.
So good has Insua been that a first full Argentina cap looks within touching distance, with the possibility of the World Cup also on the horizon.
The defender has caught the eye of Argentina manager Diego Maradona and Benitez confirmed: “Maradona and the Argentina staff are monitoring the situation because they know he’s doing well.
“I think in the future – I don’t know how long, but sooner rather than later – he will be with the national team.”
Insua added: “I have thought about playing for Argentina at the World Cup, but only in my dreams. First I have to play well for Liverpool.”
For now, Insua remains the least talked about young left-back in the league, the hacks preferring to fawn over Gael Clichy and Kieran Gibbs at Arsenal or Fabio da Silva at Manchester United.
But if the number 22 carries on impressing for club and country, it’s only a matter of time before they finally notice his talents.