‘One day you’re the cock of the walk, the next a feather duster.’
– Piers Morgan, professional Twitter T*it.
Now, while Piers, as we all know is a bit of a t*it, his Twitter bio gives a rather crystalline summarization of the fickleness that grips the fortunes of a footballer. Football doesn’t apologise. A constant ebb and tide of form, plots plot twists that make heroes into duds, and no-hopers into world-beaters. There are other mothers with handsome sons who kick the ball around, and there will never be a dearth of tunes to sing – the names change while the song remains the same. Fans and CEOs own the game like no follower or godmen could own religion, or any artist, their art. There is no sleight of hand that could deliberately veil their motives beyond our grasps, and lo, while it asks for faith, it demands critique. A lack of effort will be glared upon, a lack of talent will be ridiculed, fans will be equally magnanimous as they could be vile – but they will be rarely ever fooled. However, there is unfaltering empathy for the wronged ones, incessant egging on for the try-hards, because, at the end of the day, fans love an underdog.
Jürgen Klopp of Liverpool, who, for the majority of his life has been a try-hard, with an unshakeable will to succeed, in spite and despite the odds, looks like has set his sights on one. Fabio Coentrao, the profusely-gifted Portuguese, for the most part, was one left-back you’d have loved to buy on FIFA – that was before Madrid’s excess made him expendable. Blessed with electric pace, command over the destiny of the ball, timely tackling – he was the prototype of the modern full-back. In real life too, he wasn’t half-bad. Real Madrid paid five times the fee, King Alfonso’s beneficiary’s threw at Inter Milan for the services of the tractor-legged, Roberto Carlos, and to this day, Fabio Coentrao remains their most expensive left-back signing – a ready testament of his talents. And now, if tattles from Spain are telling, Jürgen Klopp is poised to pull a rabbit out of his top hat in landing the erst-while, most sought-after left-back in Europe on a loan-deal.
Srijandeep Das of The 4th Official, a long-time admirer of the traits of the tricky touchline operator, delves into the virtues of this potential deal.
Very few players in the world can burn Fabio Coentrao in a one-on-one. Off like a hare in the races, and with an appetite to take his man on, backed by his finesse on the ball – what you get with Fabio Coentrao is chance-creation at a ready frequency. However, saying that, he’s no spring chicken when it comes to defending, either. His natural instinct for the game apparels him with a knack for sniffing out goal threats – accentuated by the uncanny number of goal-line clearances he manages.
He laces his defensive game with a resolute combination of economical tackles, athletic blocks, and technical ability. The latter allowing him to competently slot in a wide-left attacking position, while his game intelligence and distribution is such that he has also been deployed as a defensive midfield cover on multiple occasions.
While Coentrao is a natural athlete, he’s some way off the being one of the better full-backs at aerial duels. Not the most confident header off the ball, he is sheepish in crucial defensive set-piece situations – a weakness that could come out to the fore in the Premier League. That being said, he’d still be an upgrade on a 5’7″ Alberto Moreno.
Perceptive, aware, incisive, technical, high-energy – Fabio Coentrao is the archetypal Jürgen Klopp left-back. His high concentration levels complement his movement off the ball, and assist him to further track the marauding/long-winding/subtle runs of his runners. A lack of concentration, is perhaps, what Liverpool’s errant Alberto Moreno is most often slagged off for. The 28-year-old ought to be at the peak of his career for at least the next couple or more seasons, and should provide ideal composure and experience, and a model for Moreno to base his game upon, and plug up Liverpool’s porous left-hand side.
The Portuguese’s big-match authority exemplified by his much-vaunted 2014 Copa Del Rey performance where he man-marked Messi out of the game, his strutting display vs Bayern over the two legs, where he completely laid claim to the left-flank, is a marked attribute.
Injuries inundated his career so far, much like the fortunes of previous crowd favourite at Anfield who went by the same first name, Fabio Aurelio. Coentrao is out until the starting week of October with a hamstring injury, and would not be a readymade solution. But if Klopp does put half the faith in this transfer as he has shown in Alberto Moreno, and if Coentrao’s displays at his loan spell at Monaco are anything to go by – provided fitness coach Andreas Kornmayer can work his magic, Liverpool fans will finally get the peace of mind they deserve.