By Ed Malyon
The Liverpool revolution under Kenny Dalglish continues, and following another win this weekend, comes the confirmation that Sebastian Coates will sign to bolster the defensive ranks. But what do we know about the Uruguayan starlet?
‘El Patrón’ (the boss) is his nickname and that points to one of his principal strengths. Considering his tender age of just 20, he is a natural-born leader and defensive organiser, something that will be essential if he is to be the successor to Jamie Carragher at Anfield.
He began as a widely-touted child prodigy and was captain of every age group of his boyhood club Nacional, from under-11’s upwards. His reputation grew with some masterful performances at youth level and he was incorporated into the national team setup by the time he’d reached under-17 level. In the South American under-20’s championships of 2009, he was the only player in the entire tournament not to end up on a losing side.
Following such an impressive showing, he found his way into the first team squad at Nacional, and eventually made his debut, winning a man of the match award for his display against Bella Vista. A week later he was man of the match again and also got his first goal for his beloved club – an equaliser against Liverpool (the Uruguayan version).
Becoming a fixture in the side, the young Coates (pronounced Ko-wah-tess) impressed in the Copa Libertadores – the South America Champions’ League – and was part of the Nacional side that won the 2008/09 domestic league title. Following a year of sustained excellence, Oscar Washington Tabarez could ignore him no longer and he was selected for the Uruguayan national team, although he wouldn’t make his debut until 2011.
Following yet another league title for Nacional, with ‘el patrón’ a key pillar of the side, he was included in the squad for the 2011 Copa America – the only Uruguay-based player apart from third-choice ‘keeper Martín Silva.
He finally made his debut for the celeste in a pre-tournament friendly against Estonia, replacing Mauricio Victorino for the second half. It’s now likely that this change is the long-term one also, as he excelled in the Copa America after replacing his aforementioned compatriot. Uruguay went on to win the Copa with Coates starting at the heart of the defence.
As far as Liverpool are concerned, many fans will be wondering what they are getting from Coates that they don’t have on offer from other young defenders at the club, like Danny Wilson or Martin Kelly.
Well Coates is a 6ft 5in centre-half for starters, and although usually centre-backs begin their career at full-back to ‘bed them in’, so to speak, this was never the case with Seba. He is immensely strong in the air but his acceleration and reading of the game have led him to be used as a sweeper in national team games, something that may come in handy if Dalglish decides to use a three-man defence as has been mooted. He also boasts a good passing game for a defender, which enables him to bring the ball out of defence. Such an ability is a priceless commodity at the highest level of the English game, and in Coates, Dalglish has not only found a bargain, but an exceptional young talent.