Emiliano Insua – the forgotten one?

As ardent Liverpool fans continue to debate whether classy Italian midfield maestro Alberto Aquilani should return to Anfield this summer, another gifted player currently out on loan seems to have slipped under the radar. Argentine starlet Emiliano Insua, who is plying his trade in Turkey with Galatasaray, was thought to have been on his way back to Liverpool in January. That return may not have materialised, but would the famous Anfield faithful actually welcome back the rough diamond?

The exciting 22-year-old initially signed for Liverpool on loan back in January 2007, before making the move permanent later that year. Towards the end of his fascinating first full season at the club, the talented left-back made three Premier League appearances, where he helped the Reds keep clean sheets in two of those games, against Manchester City and Tottenham. This brief taste of top-flight football came after the former Boca Juniors player enjoyed a successful stint with Liverpool’s high-flying reserves. Insua’s raw talent clearly impressed Spanish tactician Rafael Benitez, who allowed the promising youngster further chances to test himself against more illustrious opponents in seasons to come.

Italian full-back Andrea Dossena’s poor form coupled with Fabio Aurelio’s recurring injury problems meant the inexperienced Insua was given a good run of games in the 2008-2009 season – where Liverpool eventually finished as runners-up in the league. The lively South American defender made a respectable ten appearances during that thrilling campaign, before going on to become Benitez’s number one choice at left-back in 2009-2010, where he played in 31 Premier League games. Insua had become an integral part of the team – quite impressive for a new foreign player who was aged just 20 back then.

Unfortunately, young Insua was to pay a heavy price for being a permanent fixture in the starting line-up. Indeed, the crafty Argentinian had racked up enough minutes that season to make him a vulnerable target for the critics. To put it simply, the fact that Insua had played more games meant that his performances came under huge scrutiny. If Insua had only made two or three appearances again that season, he would not have been under the spotlight as much. It is much easier to expose the flaws of a player who is a regular than one who is not.

Admittedly, the boy did have weaknesses. After being thrown in at the deep end by Benitez, it slowly became obvious that Insua would need time to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League and gradually learn the tricks of his trade. He was already significantly disadvantaged by his height. As a defender standing at a meagre 5ft 10, Insua’s aerial ability in such a demanding league was always going to be questioned. The Argentine’s acceleration from a standing position was also rather poor, though he could move quite rapidly with the ball once he got going and often got into some superb attacking positions. Another issue was his weight. To put it nicely, he appeared somewhat plump, though one cannot really argue with his fitness as he always seemed to be available.

Insua and Gerrard get stuck in. (Photo from fOTOGLIF)

Nevertheless, no young player is perfect and the best hope for many fledgling stars is to get a good number of games under their belts and gain some vital experience. That is the only real way to learn and progress in the trade. Like any other youngster, there were still many things Insua could add to his game and he was by no means the finished article. It’s just a shame everyone expected miracles from day one. Just as Benitez’s days at Anfield were numbered, Insua’s promising Liverpool career was also coming to a miserable end, albeit temporarily.

In the chaotic summer of 2010, it was reported that Insua was to sign permanently for Italian outfit Fiorentina. That deal fell through, but a move to Galatasaray quickly surfaced. On the last day of the transfer window, the youngster completed a season-long loan move to the Turkish side, with an option to make the deal permanent. It is still unknown whether Galatasaray will snap Insua up on a long-term basis, but having made a measly eight starts for the Turkish giants, it appears that Insua could well be heading back to Anfield at the end of the season, coincidentally at the same time as his ‘replacement’ Paul Konchesky, who is currently enjoying himself at Championship side Nottingham Forest.

Roy Hodgson’s decision to replace Insua with a much older, yet hardly better player was simply illogical. Insua had time on his side and showed some promise during his few years at Liverpool, Konchesky did not. The decision was bizarre and farcical.

Liverpool have three senior left-backs on their books in Insua, Konchesky and Aurelio. Konchesky is likely to move on, Aurelio is a quality player, but his frequent injury problems make the Brazilian an unreliable option. Insua could end up being Liverpool’s only recognised left full-back in the summer.

England international Glen Johnson has done relatively well in his new role on the left side of defence in recent weeks, but many supporters do not see that as being his future position. If Johnson reverts back to a more familiar right-back role, that opens up a whole new can of worms because one of Liverpool’s most exciting talents, Martin Kelly, does not deserved to be dropped. However, Kelly is equally as comfortable playing at centre-back. Could he pair up with Agger and Carragher at the heart of the defence, whilst Johnson and Insua slot in as wing-backs? I for one feel that Insua would fare much better as a wing-back because he enjoys bombing forward down the touchline. Kenny Dalglish seems to favour a formation with three centre-halves and two wing-backs, so the scene is certainly set for Insua to return.

Indeed, Liverpool may decide to bring a quality international left-back in during the summer, but Insua could still be a useful option as a back-up. The adventurous Argentine has Premier League experience, likes to get forward, can cross a ball well and set up attacks, not to mention that stupendous finish against Arsenal in the cup a few years back. Significantly, Insua also has time to learn and above all, it appears that he has the desire to return. It has been rumoured that the budding youngster would be eager to play under Dalglish at Anfield. If this is true, then Insua is clearly a passionate lad who loves the club and has respect for the new manager. Perhaps this in itself should grant him another chance to prove himself at England’s most successful club. Many will argue that Insua is not a complete solution to Liverpool’s problems at left-back and to some extent I would agree, but under the guidance of King Kenny and with plenty of time to learn, Insua could turn out to be a gem.

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