x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Negredo finds his feet at Manchester City and Premier League

From his early days at Rayo Vallecano, Negredo has made great strides and now plies his trade in England, writes Andy Mitten.

Alvaro Negredo, centre, finds the England's Premier League competition more organised than Spain. David Cerny / Reuters
Alvaro Negredo, centre, finds the England's Premier League competition more organised than Spain. David Cerny / Reuters

When big football clubs said that their star players were not for sale this summer, some actually meant it. Manchester United were determined that Wayne Rooney would not leave; same with Liverpool and Luis Suarez.

The big English clubs do not have the same financial issues as Spanish clubs, nor third party ownership complications. They can afford to say no.

In July, the Sevilla president, Jose Maria del Nido, said their star striker, Alvaro Negredo, 27, would not be sold. He had shifted three players to England: Jesus Navas to Manchester City for €20 million (Dh99.6m), Luis Alberto to Liverpool for €8m and Antonio Luna to Aston Villa. He assured fans that no more stars would be sold, the money would suffice.

Seventeen days later, Negredo joined City for €25m. A month later, Gary Medel, the Chilean, joined Cardiff City for €13m and then they reluctantly sold highly rated young French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia to Monaco for €20m.

Sevilla made €90m from sales in the close season and they have spent €33m of it.

Navas was the assist king, but replacing Negredo, last season’s 25-goal top scorer, will be the most difficult job. Sevilla’s second top scorer managed 11, while Negredo is in his prime, not so much a late developer, but someone who took time to reach the top.

Born and raised in Vallecas, the left-leaning Madrid barrio immediately south of the city centre, which is home to Rayo Vallecano, Negredo started out at Rayo as a youth player, progressing to the B team and then the first team, where he played 12 times in the 2004/05 season in the regional third division.

At 19, he moved to Real Madrid’s B team in the second division in 2005, spending two fruitful seasons in a struggling side.

The closest he got to Fabio Capello’s first team was as an unused substitute in two Copa del Rey games.

Negredo moved to newly promoted top-flight side Almeria in 2007, where he scored 32 league goals in two seasons. Crucially, he proved that he could score at the highest level. At 6 feet, 1 inch, he was big, strong and powerful – and named “The Beast” by fans.

Impressed, Madrid used their €5m buy-back option and Negredo returned to the Bernabeu in 2009 – the year he got his first of 15 international call-ups for Spain. He was back in his home city for weeks before Sevilla paid €15m for him – a club record.

Negredo improved: 19 goals in all competitions in 2009/10 alongside Freddie Kanoute and Luis Fabiano, 29 the following season.

Injury limited him to 15 in 2011/12 but he hit 25 in the league alone last term, 15 with his deadly left foot. On the final day he scored all four goals in Sevilla’s 4-3 victory over Valencia to win his second Zarra – the trophy for the top scoring Spaniard in the league. His four goals pushed him one ahead of Valencia’s Roberto Soldado, who had won the Zarra a year earlier.

A disappointed Soldado congratulated Negredo on the pitch. Both would move to the Premier League in the close season.

Negredo likes his new surroundings in Manchester, where he joins a Spanish-speaking manager, plus Silva, Navas, Javi Garcia and Sergio Aguero, and the majority of City’s senior football staff.

“The Premier [League] is the best organised of all,” said Negredo recently. It may be strange to hear a player praising the organisation of the league, but the full stadiums, the punctuality of payments and training are what most impresses Spanish players arriving in England. “La Liga isn’t as competitive,” he said.

Certainly, Negredo has not faced such competition for a starting place with Edin Dzeko, Aguero and Stevan Jovetic up front.

Negredo’s style – his strength and technical excellence – looks suited to the Premier League and he scored his first City goal in the 3-2 defeat at Cardiff City in the second weekend of the season.

He has come off the bench in four of City’s five this season, including the 3-0 Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday night.

He went goalless on his one start, away at Stoke City, but his most significant contribution was a superb glancing header on City’s last home game, on August 31, which broke 65 minutes of stubborn Hull City resistance and turned the match.

He also netted in Spain’s 2-0 win in Finland at the start of the month that put them one step closer to the World Cup in Brazil.

Negredo does not consider himself too late to become a regular for the Spanish side, though he has had to sit on the bench as his compatriots have triumphed. Overlooked for the 2010 World Cup finals, in Euro 2012 he was on the bench for five of Spain’s six games – and stayed there four times.

As for trophies, Negredo hopes to add to the Copa del Rey he won with Sevilla in 2010 in which he played a key role. He has a Euro 2012 winner’s medal, too, though his role was peripheral.

He did not join City to watch from the sidelines but to play in the biggest matches against the biggest clubs.

None come much bigger for City than Sunday’s Manchester derby at Etihad Stadium.

sports@thenational.ae