Nicolas Otamendi: Everything you need to know about the Manchester United target
By Ben Nagle
Last Updated: 22/07/15 3:18pm
We take a closer look at Valencia and Argentina centre-back Nicolas Otamendi as he is linked with a big money move to Manchester United...
Name: Nicolas Otamendi
Nation: Argentina (19 appearances, one goal)
What’s the latest on his future?
Louis van Gaal has reportedly identified Nicolas Otamendi as the man to strengthen United's defence, and the player himself is said to be keen to push through the move.
Valencia are unlikely to let the centre-back leave the Mestalla for less than their valuation, which stands at around £35million.
Speaking in May, Valencia president Amadeo Salvo told the media: "If he wants to go, he will have to come to the club, not an agent, and [the buying club will have to] pay what [Valencia] decide he is worth, which is €50million at least, and with the payment structure that Valencia decide."
If he does leave Valencia for Old Trafford, he will join international team-mate Marcos Rojo in the United back-line. Perhaps not a definite sign of interest, but Rojo last week favourited a tweet asking him to "talk to Otamendi and tell him to finish up his deal with Man United soon". Make of that what you will.
Sky Sports' Spanish expert Guillem Balague has also been impressed with the 27-year-old, picking him in his La Liga team of the season.
Balague said: "Valencia's improvement and challenge for the Champions League qualification is due in no small part to the efforts of this excellent central defender, who in addition to great defence has a habit of weighing in with important goals, namely the winner to end Real Madrid’s 22-match unbeaten run."
United are actively looking for a centre-back this summer, and attention is likely to turn to Otamendi after Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted Mats Hummels is not for sale.
What's his experience?
Otamendi was born in El Talar, a small neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Growing up, he shared his time between boxing and football, building up his strength in a local gym with his cousin.
Now, though, just one of his childhood passions remains. He began his career in the youth sides of Velez Sarsfield, the most local club to his home. He lived with his mother, even while in the first team, cementing his place at the heart of the defence under current Peru manager Ricardo Gareca.
In 2009, at the age of 21, Otamendi was voted into El Pais' South American Team of the Year, with the paper describing him as "one of the revelations of the year". Despite his young age, he was a fixture in the first-team and making waves across the continent for both club and country.
By 2010, he had made 10 appearances for Argentina, including a starring role at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and he was snapped up by Porto in August of that year.
The Portuguese side, then managed by Andre Villas-Boas, paid €4m for his services, and Otamendi got off to the perfect start, scoring in his first game.
Porto won the Portuguese league, domestic cup and the Europa League in his first season - Radamel Falcao scored the only goal in the final as they beat Portuguese rivals Braga - before they retained the league trophy in 11/12 and 12/13.
Otamendi's career was becoming a runaway success, and he was playing week in, week out for the top club in Portugal. In February 2014, he agreed a move across the border to Valencia, playing out the rest of the season with Porto before heading east.
Valencia paid €12m for Otamendi, fighting off interest from Chelsea, Barcelona and AC Milan. In fact, in October 2013, Marca reported that Chelsea had secured a deal for the centre-back, a statement that in reality was off the mark.
Upon arrival at the Mestalla, Otamendi was immediately loaned out, and boarded a flight home to South America, where he spent the summer at Atletico Mineiro in Brazil.
He returned to Spain for the 14/15 La Liga season, and played a part in all but three of Valencia’s league matches, helping them to fourth and a Champions League play-off spot.
Now, though, there could be another move on the cards…
What's his style?
Otamendi's most natural position is at centre-back; the six-foot defender is commanding and comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Under Diego Maradona at the 2010 World Cup, he was employed at right-back, and much like international team-mate Marcos Rojo, is able to play in a number of different roles in the back-line.
The change in pace and style of the English game will undoubtedly be a factor if he does complete a move to the Premier League; Otamendi has played his entire career in Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil.
Would he fit straight in?
The short answer to this question is yes, he'd have to. Otamendi is 27 and at the peak of his powers. For the reported €50m Valencia want, he will be expected to slot straight in to the United back-line should a move come to fruition.
There is no time for a grace period as there may be with a younger player; Otamendi has won league titles, European trophies, and can be a big part in United's attempts to do the same.
One problem for Van Gaal and United is the Copa America, beginning this week in Chile. Should Argentina go all the way - with their squad, you would expect them to be there or thereabouts - Otamendi will not be ready to move to England until at least the middle of July.
With the Premier League's early start next season, it is likely Otamendi, along with the rest of the Premier League's South American contingent, will miss the start of the domestic season.