Friday, 2 December 2011

Ex-Pat of the Week #2

The second week of our trawl through the leagues outside of South America to find the cream of the crop takes in the Europa League, where progression to the last 32 was up for grabs, the League Cup in England and some surprise results around Europe.

So to the nominations:

Lucas Leiva. Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder took some time to convince he was Xabi Alonso's natural successor, but since the Spaniard departed for Real Madrid, Lucas has slowly grown into the role. This was capped with an outstanding display in front of the back four against Manchester City in a game Liverpool were a touch unfortunate to win. He followed that up with another starring role in the League Cup against Chelsea, but he failed to complete that game as he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury which has ruled him out for the season.

Sergio Agüero. Largely shackled in the league against Liverpool (see Lucas's nomination above), but came off the bench in the League Cup away to Arsenal in the 32nd minute as manager Roberto Mancini removed a defender - Alexander Kolarov - for the Argentine striker. The manager's bold ploy was rewarded when Agüero popped up with a late winner to see Manchester City through to the semi-finals.

Hulk. Missed out last week despite a great performance in Donetsk in the Champions League, but followed that up with a double last Sunday in a 3-2 win over bitter rivals Benfica, a result which saw Porto leapfrog the Lisbon club into pole position in the Liga ZON Sagres.

Elkin Soto. The tough-tackling Colombian was outstanding in the Mainz midfield as they pulled themselves clear of the Bundesliga danger zone and inflicting a second straight loss on the mighty FC Bayern .

Alexandre Pato. Returning from a long injury lay-off, the Brazilian scored one and set one up for Milan in a 4-0 romp against the Flying Donkeys of Chievo as the Rossoneri move within two points of long-time Serie A leaders Juventus.

Leonardo (de Vitor Santiago). The much-travelled forward is at Red Bull Salzburg these days and was their best player as his side beat cashed-up PSG 2-0 in the Europa League on Thursday, a result which gives Salzburg a real chance of progressing and threatening the French side's continued involvement in the competition.

And the winner is...

Lucas Leiva. Maybe we're getting a bit soft in our old age and perhaps, just perhaps, had Lucas not got injured in that cup game we wouldn't have given him the nod. We'd like to think not and that his performances across the two games warranted recognition. This week capped a rise which has seen him become a key player for Liverpool and a regular for the Seleção and the measure of the man is how both will miss him now he's crocked.

And all done without once mentioning Lionel Messi. Until just then. Doh!

Who have we missed? Who will get the nod next week? Comment below or hit us up on the Twitter feed, especially if you see a bit more Asian football than we do.

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