A difficult transition

Diego Forlán: A flop in Manchester, a star in Spain. :: AFP
Diego Forlán: A flop in Manchester, a star in Spain. :: AFP
  • OPinion

  • Success in one league can never guarantee it elsewhere

It can be quite mystifying why some footballers can't transfer their skill-set from one country to another, their talents getting lost somewhere in customs.

This week Sandro Ramírez and Roque Mesa fly back in the direction of the sunshine hoping they have left the grey skies that had enveloped their careers back in Britain.

They're not he first to have to rebuild their reputations after a failed attempt to make an impression in the Premier League. In fact, they are in esteemed company.

If you take a look at the top ten scorers in La Liga, you will discover that half of them have also played in the Premier League; only Luis Suárez was a success in both.

Iago Aspas is the top-scoring Spaniard, yet was a player devoid of confidence at Liverpool. Simone Zaza didn't score a single goal in the colours of West Ham yet he's recorded an average of one in every two games at Valencia alongside Rodrigo, who boasts a single goal against Wigan Athletic as his best moment at Bolton Wanderers. Cristhian Stuani was a little more prolific with five goals in his one Premier League season at Middlesbrough; now he's the goals-man at Girona.

They follow other talent like Roberto Soldado, Víctor Valdés and Claudio Bravo who didn't translate their abilities. There's Álvaro Negredo, Nolito and arguably Jesús Navas who made little impact at Manchester City.

Now Aymeric Laporte has to live up to the reputation that persuaded the same club to part with £57 million this week.

These are all footballers who have proven to be top class at their Liga clubs. Roque Mesa was the main character in the Las Palmas story and Sandro Ramírez the undoubted star of Malaga.

There can be so many obstacles to overcome and talent can be way down the list. An unsettled family is often high on the agenda; language difficulties too.

Often it is the sudden change of climate and culture. Nolito claimed his daughter's face changed colour in sunless Manchester. Gerard Piqué joked that his Manchester United team mates survived on a diet of burgers and beer; his countryman Ricardo was ticked off for bringing a leg of Spanish ham into the club canteen.

It works the other way too. Rafa Benítez tells me how, during his spell as Osasuna boss, he once fined Englishman Jamie Pollock for missing a game because he overslept. The Englishman's excuse was he thought all games kicked off at 3pm.

At a less elite level, I played football in America and was scalded by the coach for tackling during practice. Apparently tackling is reserved for match days only!

Once I played in a high-level game against Spanish opposition and brushed an opponent. He went rolling to the floor, I genuinely thought he was suffering some kind of seizure and rushed to his aid. Apparently, it was our coming together that sent him theatrically rolling.

It's a busy pipeline these days, if not a really successful one both ways. Diego Forlán is the striking example of a so-called failure in England who was a hit in Spain.

It works both ways. Michael Owen never lived up to his Ballon D'or billing at Real Madrid and there's enough said about Gary Neville's spell in Valencia.