I have to admit I didn’t know much about Mauro Zarate before he joined Birmingham City on loan in January.
In truth, I didn’t know a lot more until after he announced himself to the Premiership with his second and third goals of his spell in the Blues’ 3-1 home win over Manchester City. Then I did some research.
It seems like I may not have been the only one. Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz made the short trip to Wigan Athletic last week to see their match with Birmingham City, reported as a mission to spy on the Latics’ Luis Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios.
Really ? Hasn’t he seen both these players in action before ? Palacios came on as a substitute in both Premier League matches against United for his old club Birmingham before he followed Steve Bruce to Lancashire. Valencia saw action against Man Utd both last season and this and neither player is an unknown commodity at Old Trafford.
But Zarate is, or was, relatively undiscovered and Queiroz would probably not have seen him ‘live’ until last Saturday, taking into account his career path and limited opportunities at St Andrews so far.
The 21-year-old was building quite a tasty reputation in Argentina with Velez Sarsfield until his shock move to Qatar’s Al-Sadd in June – a month before he helped the Argentina Under-20 side lift the World Youth Cup in Canada.
Zarate’s repertoire of goals for Velez can be seen on Youtube and it’s fair to say he doesn’t get many headers, but his ability to dribble and strike the ball with either foot is clear.
After scoring the winner for Argentina’s kids this summer he was expected to follow team-mate Sergio Aguero to a club in one of Europe’s big leagues, but it never materialised and he was snapped up by Al-Sadd.
A sad loss ? His quirky agent, described by Birmingham City’s MD Karren Brady as looking like a ginger-haired extra from an Austin Powers film, said the two-year deal “was not ideal in footballing terms but it will give him and his family financial security.”
So they took the loot and ran. Fair enough, at least it means there are likely to be fewer unwanted complications for him than Carlos Tevez endured in getting him to his rightful stage – a Champions League club.
Tevez is a friend of Zarate and you can imagine the Old Trafford forward’s dilemma when the younger player inevitably asked him to put a word in at his employers to see if they wanted a nimble, two-footed goalscorer with a penchant for outrageous free-kicks. Still, it seems like he did!