What can Liverpool fans expect from Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates?

Football Spy has signed up some of the web's top foreign football experts to provide you with first-hand information on the latest Premier League transfer targets. Here's guest writer Christopher Atkins on prospective Liverpool signing Sebastian Coates.


Sebastian Coates looks set to complete his move to Liverpool this week after agreeing terms on a switch to Anfield.

The 20-year-old defender, who was in the stands for the 3-1 win over Bolton on Saturday, is just waiting for his current club Nacional to OK the £7m deal before he is presented as a Reds player.

So, just who is this Uruguayan and is he any good?

In South America, Coates (pronounced Co-at-es) is no new kid on the block. He made his international Under-20 debut aged 17 in 2008 and began his journey that could take him from youth football to the famous Shankly gates in just over three meteoric years.

He joined Uruguayan side Club Nacional in 2005 when he was just 14-years-old. In early 2009 he made his first-team debut and helped the club win the league title in his debut season, as well as playing in both the South American Youth Championships and the Under-20 World Cup of the same year.

Young talent in South America will always get a chance to shine given the high turnover rate of those departing for European shores, but as with anywhere else in the world, it is rare to see a defender make a mark at such a young age.

Coates stock was on the rise and people were taking note of this 6ft 5in youngster, whose sheer physical presence set him apart from many of his peers. This, combined with an excellent ability to read the game and impressive technical ability for a man of his size, meant fans were already getting excited about him even when he was in his teens.

The Uruguayan national team are well known in South America for their Garra Charrúa style, a term used to describe their famous grit and determination on the football pitch. Think Terry Butcher in his blood-soaked headband, or Paul Ince on that famous Rome night and you will get the picture.

In recent years, centre-back and captain Diego Lugano has been the embodiment of this Uruguayan spirit: the rough, tough stopper willing to stretch the limits of physical play to benefit his country. With Coates emerging from the shadow of Lugano, comparisons were bound to be made and the youngster is even referred to by the nickname 'Luganito' in his homeland, which means 'Little Lugano'.

But this comparison is actually a little unfair on the twenty-year-old who, despite his sizeable frame, relies much more on his abilities to time a tackle and move into position early, than sheer physical robustness. Coates is also much more technically sound with the ball at his feet than the warrior-like Lugano, 10 years his senior.

He is not afraid to dribble out of defence, not in the charging, gung-ho style of a Lúcio, but in a composed manner, always looking to find a suitable pass to move the ball on.

Initially called up to the Uruguay squad for a World Cup qualifying play-off match with Costa Rica back in 2009, just months after his first-team debut, Coates would have to wait nearly two more years to make his debut for La Celeste , in the 2011 Copa America in Argentina.

Uncapped and taken as the fourth choice centre-back, Coates must have thought he had little chance of playing in the tournament, let alone starting. However, with first-choice Diego Godín sidelined before the tournament even started and Mauricio Victorino pulling-up with an injury after just one match, Coates was thrust into the limelight, and had to make his international debut in a major international tournament.

However, as anyone who witnessed the Copa will testify, it was impossible to tell that this was a player taking his first strides in international football, let alone one of such tender years. Coates was confident on the ball, dominant in the air and physically equal to the varying challenges presented by the likes of Paulo Guerrero, Lucas Barrios and Gonzalo Higuaín.

It was therefore little surprise that the Young Player of the Tournament award followed. In a continent famed for attacking flair, the best performing young talent on show was a young defender from Montevideo.

The offers have been coming in ever since, with Manchester City, AC Milan and now Atlético Madrid all amongst the list of rumoured courters this summer. Unsurprisingly, Nacional have dramatically raised their asking price for a player who no doubt could have been bought for £2-3million just months ago. The club are not exactly made of money right now, as with most others on the continent (outside of Brazil) and any offer would have been tempting.

But, despite confirmation of higher offers, it appears to be Liverpool who have won the race for Coates. The lure of playing alongside countryman Luis Suárez is said to be high among the reasons for this decision, but whatever the case, Liverpool are undoubtedly buying a talent.

At £7million, Coates represents little risk to the Anfield club. If successful, he is a real bargain, capable of replacing club legend Jamie Carragher with aplomb when the veteran eventually decides to call it a day. If it doesn't work out for him on Merseyside, the fee is low enough and Coates is young enough to allow the Reds to recoup their investment by selling him on.

There will no doubt be testing times as he adapts to the Premier League, and Nacional fans will tell you he is prone to the odd mistake over the course of a season. But for those who have witnessed Coates play, it is easy to believe that he will shine for years to come at the Anfield club, given the right support and nurturing.

Few defenders in world football can boast such success at such a young age and Coates has shown, albeit briefly, that he is surely bound for the biggest stage.


Read more from Christopher at www.theelastico.com and on Twitter at @chris_elastico

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