Yesterday we reported Colombian defender Cristián Zapata would be joining Villarreal, based on a report from Spanish paper EPM. Zapata has now given an interview to a Colombian paper confirming this will be the case; he will do the medical and sign a contract after the Copa America.
There still seems to be some confusion about the terms of the deal; EPM originally reported Villarreal had tried to lower the price by offering Jozy Altidore, but that in the end it would be a cash deal. Other reports suggest that either Marco Ruben or Altidore could be moving as part of the transaction, or that Altidore will be joining newly-promoted Granada as part of the deal. Colombia's Caracol Radio reports it is a cash deal, and that seems the most likely. We may not know the final terms until the transfer is officially done after the Copa America.
On the face of it, this is an excellent signing. Villarreal went into this transfer window wanting desperately to bolster its back line after last season's injuries to Gonzalo and Ángel, and hoped to add a left back and a central defender. Last year Mateo Musacchio and Gonzalo Rodriguez formed a good central pairing in defense, while Coach Garrido found that moving Carlos Marchena from the back in to a defensive midfield slot, in the absence of Marcos Senna. worked quite well.
With Gonzalo still rehabbing his injured leg, Villarreal really needed another strong, experienced central defender to play alongside Musacchio, who although immensely talented is young and inexperienced at the top level. Zapata is only 24, but started playing for Udinese when still a teenager and has five years of Serie A experience.
Remember that last year our defense had trouble dealing with set pieces. Zapata should help with that because not only is he tall (6'2"), he is also a good leaper and wins more than his share of headers. From what I've seen, he's not going to be someone who gets caught out of position that much, which is important because the downside of Villarreal's attacking system is that losing control of the ball in attack can often leave the center backs scrambling to cut off a quick counter, or needing to be in a good position to start with so that the danger can be averted early on. Zapata's game experience and quickness should help here.
Zapata can play right back, though in addition to Ángel (expected to be ready for the season), Villarreal has Mario Gaspar, who played very well last year after Ángel went down. Nonetheless, it's good to have another option in case of injury. And, with Villarreal playing in Europe again and at a higher level this time, and wanting to compete effectively in the Copa del Rey as well as La Liga, having a defender of Zapata's quality to share minutes at the back can only be a good thing!