Position: Centre Back
Current Club: Valencia CF
Market Value*: £17.5 million
International Caps / International Goals: 24 / 1
Chance of United Signing Him: 75%
For a player in La Liga who isn’t in a Barcelona, Real or Atletico team, Otamendi had a great season. He helped his team clinch 4th in the league, which is the only Champions League place available to 80% of the league.
Not only did he help his team to success but he had a great season personally too. He scored 6 times, two of which were at home to each of the big Madrid teams, and played 35/38 La Liga games, only missing 1 due to injury and 2 from suspension.
Heart of the Defence
Last season the Argentinian was the lynch pin of the defence. He was paired with young, but very talented German, Shkodran Mustafi who is only 22. His two full backs were 19 year old Jose Luis Gaya, who is also very talented but obviously lacks experience; and Antonio Barragan, who is a pretty average defensively and performs best when going forward, which he does quite often.
So Otamendi had his hands full with holding the defensive line and covering for the young’uns. Despite this, Valencia still only conceded 32 goals and kept 13 clean sheets, to put that in perspective, Real Madrid conceded 38 goals and kept 15 clean sheets. Valenica’s defence really excelled last season which was greatly down to the work of Nicolas Otamendi.
Just a Good Season?
It does appear that before this season he could, at most, be labelled as a good defender, not really a great one. He only transferred to Valencia, from Porto, at the start of last season for £8.4 million*. He wasn’t even taken to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where players like Martin Demichelis were taken ahead of him; and this was after Demichelis had a near diabolical first season with Manchester City.
However Otamendi stepped up his game last year and proved to be a strong and consitant leader which earned him a place in Argentina’s Copa America finalist team. He played the full time in every game except the group game against Jamaica, in which he warmed the bench alongside the likes of Lavezzi, Tevez, Gago and Aguero.
A Good Fit for United?
Based on last season, yes. He managed a very inexperienced and attacking defensive line whilst exceeding in his own defensive duties. Stick him alongside Smalling, Darmian/Valencia and Shaw/Blind next season and he’ll find himself be to focus more on his defensive responsibilities due to his more experienced peers.
However the Premier League is a far more difficult league to play in than La Liga. It’s a much more physical game, with less time on the ball and much higher calibre teams each game. Not only this but United will be playing Champions League in midweek and they’ll be expected to win every game in all competitions.
Otamendi has improved with age; his experience has helped him to excel his slightly lesser natural talent, which has also formed him into a strong natural leader. Hopefully having him consistently alongside Chris Smalling will help the English defender to continue on his ever improving game.
If Nicolas Otamendi comes to United with a season true to that of last year he will be a great fit. The commanding, consistent and experienced centre back that United have needed since the great Ferdinand and Vidic partnership came to an end.