Saturday Oct 21, 2017  
     
 
  14/08/2013: Player Profile: Diego Novaretti
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When Lazio signed the 28 year-old Argentine centre-back Diego Novaretti from Mexican side Toluca in June, more than a few eyebrows were raised. Given Lazio's difficulties in defence towards the end of last season, many fans were hoping that Lazio would splash much of the the transfer budget cash on a young and vibrant centre-back who has just enough experience to waltz into pre-season training camp and demand a starting berth. Instead, the fans were rewarded with the virtually unknown Novaretti who arrived on a free transfer, signing a four-year deal worth 2 million euro.

Novaretti came cheaply and while fans are more than happy to see their owners throw money at clubs and players, owners are always striving to conduct a successful mercato without spending excessively. This explains why Roberto Mancini and Manchester City - despite being as rich in transfer funds as any side in club football - were looking at bringing in Novaretti with the 2013-14 season in mind. Mancini was effusive in his praise for the Argentine, believing that he had more than enough ability to replace established names such as Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott. Unfortunately for Mancini, he got the boot before he could realise the Novaretti ambition and like Olimpia at the Olimpico, Igli Tare swooped as if Diego was his prey.

Given the nature of the signing, expectations for Novaretti are modest. He has needed pre-season to adapt to life in Italy, and he will need a couple of Serie A games to adjust to the league and considering both Biava and Dias look set to get the nod for the Supercoppa Italiana, it may be a while before he gets the playing time he requires. However, Novaretti has spent the last four years playing week in, week out for Toluca in the very technical Liga MX and I would be incredibly surprised if Diego is not already feeling quite at home in Italy. While the quality of Liga MX pales in comparison to Europe's major leagues, the style of play Novaretti is used to should translate well into Serie A and with Italian heritage, there can be no excuses for not settling in and embracing the culture.

The time is right for Novaretti to move to Europe. At 28, he is getting into his peak years and does so off the back of some positive experiences. Novaretti's Toluca topped the table during the Torneo Apertura in 2012 and the top eight sides in the league were entered into play-offs where Toluca reached the final, losing only to Tijuana. As a result of topping the league table, Toluca were entered into the South American equivalent of the Champions League - the Copa Libertadores. In a tough group, Toluca narrowly missed out on qualification to the knockout rounds with Boca Juniors sneaking through at their expense, despite the fact that Toluca had beaten Boca both home and away. Novaretti's form during this period has earned him significant praise with experts picking him out as one of the best players in Liga MX.

Novaretti has been described as a consistent performer who is rarely injured and is a threat on set-pieces. Despite being nicknamed 'El Flaco' ('The Skinny One'), Novaretti is a robust athlete and noted for being a tough customer, although that is also to his detriment as he has seen red eight times in his career. Novaretti is relatively quick also and is comfortable playing the ball out of defence. In many ways, experts have described him as the perfect centre-back, but of course, it remains to be seen if he can exhibit these qualities in Serie A. Without doubt, he will have to control his affection for coloured pieces of cardboard and most importantly of all, he will have to show that he understands the art of defending and can meet the challenge of playing in Europe's most defensively demanding league.

I believe Novaretti was brought in to replace Andre Dias, who the club expected to return to Brazil. Since that has gone awry, Vladimir Petkovic will now be hoping that he can offer competition for Dias' place along with Cana and Ciani. If Novaretti shows a good understanding for the Italian game, I think he can oust Dias from the starting eleven and establish himself within the team, but it is an unphill battle for him, being the newbie. For the sake of Lazio's season, and knowing what we can realistically expect from our other centre-backs, we need Novaretti to hit the ground running and exceed the fans' expectations of him. With Biava and Dias nearing pension age, he is arguably the most important transfer in this window. No pressure then, Diego.
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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