Whoa, ho, ho he’s magic…yes, one season in the Premier League was more than enough to convince us all of the sorcery Esteban Cambiasso has been blessed with.
The all-action Argentine, who has drank from more of football’s most coveted trophies than many of his peers have scored goals, was instrumental in helping Leicester pull off arguably the most unlikely relegation escapes in the history of English football.
Cambiasso’s experience, influence and unwavering class undoubtedly elevated the performances of his Foxes colleagues, for the bulk of whom 2014/15 was the first season in which they graced a football pitch alongside a player of his calibre.
What makes Leicester’s acquisition of the veteran midfielder all the more impressive is that it didn’t cost them a cent in transfer fees.
In light of the success Nigel Pearson savoured in this particular venture, newly-promoted trio Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich should be scouring the scrolls of out-of-contract individuals who could have a similar effect in their bids to stave off the drop, while the Aston Villas, Sunderlands and Newcastles of this world could also heed this lesson.
But who is the best seasoned practitioner available for nothing this summer?
After consulting the list of geriatrics whose contracts expired at the conclusion of 2014/15, two prominent results were generated:
The first is Jose Antonio Reyes.
Remember, a player of Cambiasso’s stature does not become available for free every year, so we’re looking for someone with similar characteristics; a decorated player with ample experience at the very highest level who boasts supreme technical savvy to compliment strong mental attributes.
Reyes, it would appear, can check all of these boxes.
He was an Invincible with Arsenal in 2004, while he also has Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Benfica on his CV, in addition to 21 caps for Spain.
In terms of trophies won, there are four(!) Europa Leagues on his mantelpiece, one Premier League, one La Liga and several domestic cups too.
Mentality is the area where he will fall short for many, but lauded Spanish tactician Unai Emery saw fit to hand Reyes the armband ahead of Sevilla’s Europa League final win of Dnipro last month, so he must have sufficient steel about him to rally compadres of lesser pedigree.
However, despite being capable of playing in central-midfield, the Spaniard is probably more of a wideman and his relatively bad experiences of England’s top flight may well perturb him from making a return.
All of this means he should be seen as a secondary solution to the other hit our failsafe formula spat out: Seydou Keita.
The Malian journeyman has had his paws on Europe’s most coveted trophies, namely during his four-year stay at Barcelona, and has represented his country, whom he captains, over 100 times.
He may be 35, but the fact that Roma – the second best team in Italy – fielded him 29 times last season is argument enough for those who’d question whether he can still cut Colman’s finest at the top level.
Keita has prospered roaming between boxes in some of the world’s elite midfields, while his status as an elder statesman would make him an ideal defensive screen too – the perfect Cambiasso embodiment of those currently available.