Part 3/4 in our player personnel series. Previously featured were the goalkeepers and midfielders. I’m labeling Fuster as a striker and Montero a midfielder based on the preseason, but that designation is subject to change.
Giuseppe Rossi: Il Bambino has achieved a lot at the tender age of 23. The object of many American fans' ire (not mine), he was left out of the Italian World Cup squad due to a Serie A-only selection policy. Silly, but it's just a blip on the radar. With 13, 15, and 17 goals in his 3 seasons at Villarreal, Rossi will shoot for 20 in 2010-11. A versatile player with the ability to both run at defenders and play with his back to them.
Nilmar: A disappointing World Cup (for player and country) did not tarnish a successful return to European football. The canarinha led Villarreal with 11 goals in La Liga, though he scored just once in 11 appearances in the Copa del Rey and Europa League. A slow start was not surprising, considering the acclimatization period; Nilmar really took off as a winger in the 4-3-3. He paired well up front with Rossi, but the other strikers may not be a natural fit.
Likely bench players:
David Fuster: He was a revelation in 2009, not to mention that he ruined Barcelona's perfect season at home. But with Valverde's departure and the shift to a 4-3-3, his playing time diminished. He slots in well as a support striker behind Rossi, but no other role has worked. I'd like to see a diamond midfield formation with Fuster behind Rossi and Nilmar, but the local boy from Oliva has only featured as a striker in the preseason. A big season for his future.
Jozy Altidore: Will he stay? If so, how much will he play? Anywhere from a starter in the Copa del Rey and Europa League to a spot in Garrido's doghouse is possible. I think he and Nilmar could work well, but that partnership will take time to develop. Talent and skill, yes. But is he committed to making things work in Villarreal? Time will tell. If not, he might be off to Turkey, Holland, or England in the winter transfer window.
Marco Ruben: The Argentine was too good for the Segunda, scoring 17 times in 31 appearances. This eye-popping success made him the object of EPL side Wigan Athletic's desire, but a deal fell through at the last minute. At age 23, it's time for Ruben to get a real shot with Villarreal. A poacher who relies on positioning and timing, he seems perfect as a late-game substitute (forward to 3:45). He is in line for a bigger role if Nilmar or Rossi leaves after this season.