Eighteen-year-old Peruvian midfielder Edison Flores has signed a four-year deal with Villarreal. The starlet winger won the U-20 Copa Libertadores last season with Universitario and was on the radar of numerous European clubs. But Srs. Llaneza and Roig Negueroles swooped in with $400,000 to effect the transfer. Well done.
Villarreal's final summer signing, as is typical, flew in without much fanfare. But the transfer of 'Orejas' Flores is noteworthy on a few levels. Why? Follow me through the jump.
As the legend goes, the Yellow Submarine comes from humble roots. With Fernando Roig's purchase of the club, and thirteen seasons in the Primera later, Villarreal CF is a known commodity around the world. But the key to recruiting players is "what have you done for me lately?", and 2011-12 ended in relegation.
So an 'impact' signing was a priority, particularly after sending out fourteen players and bringing in 'only' club legend Javi Venta. While Swedish center back Olof Mellberg and Argentine striker Fernando Cavenaghi are solid veterans, neither move set hearts ablaze at El Madrigal. Maybe their home performances have done so, but the fan base expected more pizzazz.
Enter Argentine midfielder Héctor Canteros, a prospect on loan from Vélez Sarsfield. More buzz emanated for a player who has worn the #10 shirt for his country and was praised by Ronaldinho, but Canteros remains injured as of today. So the verdict is still out.
Uruguayan striker Walter Pandiani has paid immediate dividends, earning the Yellow Submarine four points in the last two matches. We likely have the Sabadell stalemate to thank for his arrival, but a thirty-six-year-old substitute is not a long-term investment. That brings us to 'Orejas', so nicknamed for his most endearing physical features.
A player once tracked by Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia who signed with a second-division club. When on the verge of landing in the Dutch Eredivisie, reputedly the best European league to develop young talent. To start with a team in semi-professional Segunda B. Quite a sales job by Yellow Submarine management.
Why did Flores come to Vila-real? A few good reasons:
Our promotion of young talent. Julio Velázquez is a first-team manager at age 30, following in the footsteps of homegrown leaders Juan Carlos Garrido and José Francisco Molina. And Lluis Planagumà runs the filial at age 31. On players, our team is currently driven by 20-year-old midfielder Manu Trigueros. And starlet Moi Gómez, on the verge of a full-time berth with the 'A' team, is younger than Flores.
Our international reputation. Mellberg, Cavenaghi, and Pandiani all cited the positive 'character' references they received before signing with Villarreal. Flores was no exception, noting conversations with former filial manager 'Chemo' del Solar. Consistently playing attractive football (save the Lotina era) also serves as a nice calling card.
Spain's siren song. The chance to play Real Madrid and Barcelona next season is tantalizing, particularly without resorting to "parking the bus." And La Liga still is viewed in Latin America as the pinnacle of club football, warts and all. Not to mention the beautiful weather in the Comunitat Valenciana and minimal linguistic and cultural barriers.
I can't wait to see Edison Flores in action. Another example of Villarreal punching above its weight, even in the second division. Good luck, Orejas, and we hope it's the start of a long and productive partnership.