The lower reaches of league tables are not the most obvious place to begin a search for footballers of sublime gift, but even the darkest corners can produce a wealth of unexpected treasures. Almería – though currently basking in the glory of holding the mighty Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw – is a club rooted to the foot of La Liga, but in the form of Pablo Piatti it harbours a hidden jewel.
A versatile attacking midfielder who can play on either flank, as the playmaker, or even as a striker, Piatti is a largely uncelebrated player who has provided his Andalusian employers with moments of candent genius since his arrival from Estudiantes in 2008. Almería may only be a small club located on the historical and geographical periphery of the Spanish game, but Piatti is a player who demands a great deal of attention.
At just 5’4’’, Piatti is short in stature but possesses that ‘low centre of gravity’ which is shared by so many of the game’s most technically gifted players. It would be folly to make a direct comparison with Lionel Messi, but when he is running with the ball it is the Barcelona forward of whom Pablito is most reminiscent.
With intelligent control of the ball, speed across the ground, and precision in front of goal, the 21 year-old has all the attributes required to become a genuinely world-class attacking player. Elusive to those who try to subdue him, the Argentinian’s trademark is running from deep and breaking the shackles of his marker with a late change of direction, arriving in the penalty area with typically impeccable timing. Last season may have seen a slight lull in the level of Argentinian’s performances, but 2010/11 has seen him indisputably rediscover some of his best form.
Although Piatti may not possess a particularly impressive goal scoring record (just over one every eight games), his craft and creativity has been invaluable to Almería over the last two-and-a-half years. In combination with the likes of Albert Crusat, José Ortiz and Leonardo Ulloa, Piatti has been integrated into a stylish team which has made an enjoyable habit of overachieving in recent seasons.
Piatti is well-suited to the stylistic bent of Almería, but one would suspect that it is only a matter of time before Pablito outgrows the humble surrounds of the Estadio del Mediterráneo and is poached by a club of greater stature. Keep a very watchful eye on Pablo Piatti, this young man’s got an extremely bright future ahead of him.