Player Profile: Nicolas GaitanBy: jamesmartin | November 19th, 2010
Age: 22, Position: Attacking Midfield, Nationality: Argentinian, Former Clubs: Boca Juniors
The hero of Sunday’s 4-0 victory over Naval was undoubtedly Nicolas Gaitan who grabbed his first Liga Sagres goals with an expertly taken brace, thus i thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at the man signed to replace Angel Di Maria.
Born into a poor Buenos Aires family, a young Gaitan divided his time between playing football and selling plants to commuters on trains to help support his family. This selflessness paid of and in June 2008 the attacking midfielder made his league debut for Boca Juniors in a 3-1 win over Arsenal De Sarandi. After coming from the bench to score twice in a 3-0 victory over Huracan, Gaitan quickly established himself as key member of Los Xeneizes’ first eleven, making 63 appearances and scoring 13 goals in just two years.
These performances did not go unnoticed, and after receiving praise from Boca legend and teammate Martin Palermo, Maradonna took notice and summoned Gaitan to the Argentina squad for the September 2009 friendly with Gahna. Appearing as a substitute the youngster obviously made an impression as he made the starting eleven for a friendly with Costa Rica in January 2010.
As with all promising South Americans, Gaitan began to attract interest from European clubs and both Spanish side Almeria and Ajax are said to have made offers for his services. However, it was Benfica’s bid of around £8 million which prised the youngster away from his homeland and made him the third most expensive signing in the clubs history.
Big Boots to Fill
This summer’s transfer campaign was dominated by departures rather then arrivals and with Di Maria and Ramires leaving Lisbon for pastures new Gaitan’s arrival received little immediate attention. However, once the dust had settled the eyes of Benfiquistas quickly turned towards their new signing who not only had a hefty price tag to live up to, but had to prove he was worthy of succeeding Di Maria on the left flank and so far I would argue he is doing a decent job.
Yes he may not have exactly set the world alight, but the 22 year old has shown enough to suggest he has a bright future in Lisboa. The brace against Naval demonstrates that this is a player who knows how to put the ball in the net and only Carlos Martins and Javier Saviola have provided the team with more assists.
Nicolas is welcomed into the Benfro brigade
In truth Gaitan was always going to suffer from comparisons with Di Maria, but their playing styles are actually quite different. While Di Maria was more of a traditional winger who thrived on mazy dribbles and beating his fullback, Gaitan is more of play maker in the Pablo Aimar mold. A fine passer of the ball he can operate on the flank, in the centre and even as a second striker and in that respect he offers a greater level of tactical flexibility then Di Maria. Indeed, several sources have compared the Argentinian to David Silva and if he can come close to matching the Spaniard’s ability we have a gem on our hands.
We can all hope that Sunday’s performance was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Benfica and Gaitan and we can look forward to seeing the Argentine develop as he becomes more accustomed to Portuguese football. However, we should also be patient, after all even Di Maria himself required a little adjustment time before showing his true colours.