Jefferson Montero's play at Betis has brought him back into the Ecuadorian national side--here, against the USA in a friendly last month (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
With our B team taking on Elche this weekend, let's have a quick update on our players under contract but loaned out to other clubs:
Juan Carlos--our 24 year-old keeper has played every minute in the Elche goal so far, and has looked good in the matches I've seen. Yes, he doesn't have the height of Diego Lopez, but he has excellent reflexes, is a fine one-on-one shot stopper. He's got two veteran defenders in front of him--Edu Albácar and Sergio Pellegrin--and that has to help, too.
Expect Villarreal to have to make a hard decision this summer. Do we figure Diego López will stay with us in the long term (he'll only be 31), in which case Juan Carlos's options would seem to be limited, or do we consider he's ready for the big time and we listen to offers for our omnipresent first-team keeper?
Nicki Bille--in contrast to Juan Carlos, who has been impressing at Elche, Nicki Bille hasn't done much. He's appeared in 8 matches, has no goals in 440 minutes, and when I've seen him has struggled to make an impact. Maybe the visit of the Mini Submarine will be what he needs to get started--he's certainly done well for the Danish under-21 side but has had difficulty translating that performance to the Segunda Division.
He's 23 and his contract with Villarreal runs until 2014, so you figure he's got the remainder of this season with Elche and the next, with Villarreal B or wherever, to show his stuff.
Ikechukwu Uche--nine games with Granada, one goal, and we all know when that was and who it was against! Apparently Granada "paid for his entire loan period already" so are not interested in letting us have him back during our striker injury epidemic. No one on Granada has more than one goal, and in games where he's had three shots on goal (Atletico, Sevilla, Villarreal) Granada have won two and drawn one.
Jefferson Montero--Though Betis have stalled after their quick start, Montero has continued to do well. He's played 8 games, though I don't think a complete one yet--he's only averaging 60 minutes per appearance. He has 15 shots on goal during that time, which is decent, but no assists. I have only seen him play a couple of times this season and of course his pace is his main attribute, but he does seem to be coming inside more often than he did last year, when he frequently dribbled into trouble on the wing.
I hope he's gotten better at tracking back to defend, which was one of the problems Garrido had with him last year. He has gotten into the Ecuador national team again, and Betis apparently are wishing they'd signed him and taken Matilla on loan rather than the other way round!
Ivan Marcano--Lest we forget, we do still have this guy under contract, though he's now playing for Ernesto Valverde in Greece with Olympiacos. He's been a regular in their matches so far, but I haven't seen him play. His loan period expires this June but his Villarreal contract isn't done until 2013, so I expect we will sell him on. Musacchio seems to have displaced him for good here.
Overall, a mixed bag, but more good than bad. We'll get a look at Juan Carlos and Nicki Bille tomorrow, and Montero after the break (I am assuming he can play against us). Endavant Villarreal!