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Pablo Aimar is the main reason Valencia are on the verge of their first title for 31 years.

The 22-year-old scored the winner in the decisive 2-0 win over Barcelona in February and has hit three more since, as well as providing innumerable assists.

Now, with only Malaga and Real Betis left to play, El Che have a four-point advantage over Real Madrid.

In Argentina they call Aimar "The Clown", in Spain he has recently become known as "The Little Angel" - in no small part due to the goal against the Azulgrana where he floated in majestically at the far post to strike with perfect timing.

He is clearly a player who captures the imagination.

It was forever thus. So clear was it at his first club - Buenos Aires side Estudiantes - that Aimar was something special that Argentinian giants River Plate wasted no time in taking the fuzzy-haired youngster to the Estadio Monumental.

He made his first-team debut in 1996 and went on to play 84 matches, netting 22 goals before his 18th birthday.

Alongside Javier Saviola, Juan Pablo Angel and Ariel Ortega, he was one of River's "Fabulous Four" and his sharp rise to prominence ensured he was selected to help Argentina win the World Youth Championship in Malaysia in 1997.

He was, however, left out for the final against Uruguay because there were doubts he could handle the pressure of the occasion.

It was this potential lack of mental strength that many observers believed was the reason Hector Cuper overlooked Aimar for much of his first season at Valencia.

Surprising as it may seem, he has only truly made the playmaker spot his own in recent months after arriving at the Mestalla with a £13.7 million price-tag in January 2001.

A year later he had failed to justify the hype. "I am sure I will suddenly take off," he said at the beginning of the year. "When that happens, everybody will see what I can do.

"I haven't done particularly well so far but I'm convinced I will come good, like I did at River. Then everybody will see the real Aimar.

"It takes time to adapt to football in a different country, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. I know that I can do better but I have to be patient.

"I've played some good games but never had a continued run in the team and that's why I've had a hard time adapting."

The prediction was accurate. Since coach Rafa Benitez granted Aimar his wish of regular starts, he has provided the missing link that will surely see El Che win their first championship for three decades.

Impulsively creative, technically excellent, he binds midfield and attack, fashioning a plethora of chances with his movement and dancing feet.

Now the classic No 10 is set to be Argentina's creative hub at the World Cup.

Two issues have monopolised national coach Marcelo Bielsa's thoughts in recent months: whether to lead the line with Hernan Crespo or Gabriel Batistuta and who to play in the hole in his proven 3-3-1-3 system.

The Crespo-Batistuta debate rumbles on, but Aimar is now favourite for the roaming role - a position of huge prestige as it previously belonged to Diego Maradona.

Aimar faces competition from Juan Roman Riquelme, Marcelo Gallardo, Ariel Ortega, Juan Sebastian Veron and close friend Javier Saviola.

His impressive performances in friendlies with Germany and Cameroon have given him the edge over Argentina's various 'pibes' - midfield maestros - despite the embarrassment of riches at Bielsa's disposal.

Veron impressed in the position against Wales, but Aimar, with his low centre of gravity, balance and effortless change of pace, was the one who really caught the eye.

Bielsa will want both players in his side in Japan and can do so in a formation that allows two players enjoying free roles: Veron in a defensive one, Aimar further forward.

Aimar was only on the field against Germany for 30 minutes before an injury niggle saw him substituted. But that was long enough to send a ripple of excitement through the crowd when he beat two defenders only to be denied by goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

In the 2-2 draw with Cameroon in March, he was in similarly irresistable form. He won his team a penalty in the first half when he burst on to a pass into the box and was scythed down, before scoring himself after the break.

"My best match is yet to come - I'm happy but I still have to improve," he said afterwards - an ominous warning for World Cup opponents England, Nigeria and Sweden.

Again he had taken time to deliver. He was first called up to the Argentina squad in 1999 but struggled to impose himself and needed more time to develop.

Nonetheless, his experience at Valencia, where he toiled before being gifted his own playground, has given him the confidence to take to the international stage.

Veteran forward Claudio Caniggia, for one, is in no doubt about Aimar's potential.

"He can be the surprise of the World Cup," he predicts. "He can echo the arrival of Michael Owen at France 98. He is one of the best young players from Argentina and maybe the world."

Holland legend Johan Cruyff adds: "You can already see Aimar is going to be exceptional. He has got the lot."

Praise indeed from men who have lit up the world's greatest sporting event themselves. And few should doubt they are spot on.
Where are the guys who called him the "biggest flop" now? ;)

518 Posts
yeah , I have just read it on onefootball, it's good to see people started paying real attention to Pablito. However, there are still people who only recognise names like Beckham, Veron, Zidane,Owen etc.

The point I wanna emphasize is the recognition of EPL in my own country. It's a sad thing that people in my country only flavour EPL and big stars.

6,529 Posts
Like Riquelme I've been watching Aimar since 1997 and there is no doubt that he is an amazing player. He needed time to make the transition to a new team not to mention a new country but he is showing everyone exactly how good he really is.

This is the reason that even when he was going through a tough time last year out NT manager, Marcelo Bielsa never gave up on him. Aimar could well be one of the great stars on this WC.

BTW-I really hope Valencia win the title. Your team has been superb and you really deserve to be champions! Good luck!

280 Posts
czar, thanx for the good wishes!:)

I do remember that you were among the rare ones (Ziad, batigold, at least one of Don Vitos:D) who believed in him even through his worst periods....

unlike Momo who's just trying to redeem himself :tongue:

23,341 Posts
Good luck Aimar, and congrats for helping Valencia to the first title in so many years!!!

3,247 Posts
everyone who has followed valencia during this season, can see how aimar improved in the last part of the season.
but the question is why he took so long??
the answer, is IMHO, the selfconfidence. now, you can see he is daring, bold, and that he is a great startegist and passer.
in his first matches, i wondered this, why he didnt dare to go foward, to face defenders in a 1 to 1, like he has been doing during this last 10/15 matches.
another factor, is that his team mates finally trust a 100% on him.

anyway, i still think aimar can play better behind two fowards.
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