[dropcap]G[/dropcap]iven the calibre in the Spanish national squad, signing someone recently capped by La Roja for a £5 million fee looks like an excellent piece of business, even before analysing who said player is.
Add into the mix that it is Southampton making the signing, with their recent track record of a superlative scout network leading to the unearthing of real gems, and Juanmi’s so-far failed move to St Mary’s is all the more surprising.
Eager to bolster his squad in the summer amid the perennially threat of losing star men to Champions League-qualified sides, Ronald Koeman moved quickly to make the most of a dire financial situation in Malaga and land the versatile 22-year-old attacker.
His acquisition, which is believed to have been at the expense of a host of Spanish clubs that also coveted the forward’s signature, was seen in many corners as something of a coup.
However, fast forward a couple of months and Juanmi’s signing has been one of the few to follow the inexplainable Gastón Ramírez route rather than the succession of successful new faces to step out for the south coast club.
The Spaniard’s total Premier League exposure so far accrues to 79 minutes over the course of seven substitute appearances and as such it is fair to say that Juanmi is still finding his feet.
With a lack of opportunities to play, you have to go back to April to rediscover the forward’s last goal, which impressively came at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid. Go back two months earlier and Juanmi scored the only goal of the game as Malaga beat Barcelona 1-0 at Camp Nou.
Although there are clearly cultural and footballing hurdles to be overcome if the 22-year-old is to turn his English tenure around, one of the main obstacles is the clarity of just where in Koeman’s system he will play.
In the 4-2-3-1 set-up, robust Italian striker Graziano Pellè continues to command the centre forward role, largely due to his hold-up play and physical stature.
The flanks are dominated by the impressive figure of Sadio Mané and the under-appreciated and selfless Dušan Tadić, while experienced campaigners such as Shane Long and Steven Davis are also in the mix.
Recent talk in the Spanish press suggests that former club Malaga could well make a January move to bring Juanmi back to La Rosaleda on loan, which seems to make sense for all parties.
However, if the Spaniard is to be a success in the Premier League, staying at St Mary’s and fighting for a place would be the better option.
There is no doubting Juanmi’s calibre and as such there is every reason to suggest that in a year’s time he could well be part of the list of foreign imports to light up the south coast club.
Identified at a relatively early age as someone of potential, the forward represented Spain at under-17 and 18 level, before winning successive European titles with a supremely gifted under-19 outfit.
Vicente del Bosque clearly was impressed by the starlet’s performances in the second half of last season and gave him his senior debut in a friendly fixture against the Netherlands.
To suggest that Juanmi has any short-term ambitions of continuing a presence in the senior squad may well be slightly ambitious, but any involvement in such a distinguished group shows his potential.
Southampton fans have become spoilt by their signings over recent years, with a somewhat unjust expectation that every new face will follow suit and make an immediate impact.
Juanmi’s start in English football may well have been underwhelming so far, but to write off a player with his standing in the Spanish game after less than six months would be decidedly foolish.
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