Alvaro Negredo: The Beast is hungry again and feasting on goals
Manchester City's new striker found the net 31 times for Seville last season. He already has 12 this term
Sunday 10 November 2013
There are, according to Wikipedia, nine footballers, three wrestlers, one Colombian serial killer and the head of the Sicilian mafia who answer to the name of "The Beast".
The Beast of Vallecas is coming towards me armed with tea and biscuits. Up close, at Manchester City's training ground, Alvaro Negredo is not especially frightening, but Igor Akinfeev, the CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Negredo beat three times in the Champions League on Tuesday night, might answer differently.
Last season Negredo found the net 31 times for Seville. Already this season the tally for City and Spain is 12. The goals are often the same. He finds space in the area, anticipates the cross or the through ball and scores from close range with head or boot. His way of playing is very English; he is what Alan Shearer might have been had he been born in Gijon rather than Gosforth.
His nickname of "La Fiera de Vallecas" actually translates as "The Wild Animal of Vallecas" rather than "The Beast". "You know how it is," he smiles, "your team-mates give you a nickname and then the journalists make the name stick. 'The Beast' – I like that a lot more (than 'the wild animal')."
At least he is not saddled with "The Beauty of the Night", which is what they called Zbigniew Boniek at Juventus.
Vallecas is a fiercely working-class district of Madrid, where Negredo learnt the game alongside his two older brothers, Cesar and Ruben, who play lower-league football in Spain. Alvaro travelled further and higher, first to the local club, Rayo Vallecano, then after an unsuccessful attempt to break through at Real Madrid, Almeira and Seville.
That he should come to England was not a surprise. That it should be Manuel Pellegrini that signed him was. Pellegrini was the man who told him he had no future at the Bernabeu.
"I always knew he had confidence in me because he wanted me when he was in charge at Villarreal and Malaga," said Negredo. "The problem he had with me at Real was that I was very young and fighting for a place in the squad with a lot of world-class players.
"There was Raul, Ronaldo, Benzema, Van Nistelrooy and Higuain and so I really didn't have much of a chance because of the age I was. When Pellegrini sold me, he explained his decision. He said to me: 'Listen, I want you to go to a club where you can keep growing by doing well'.
"He helped me look at my options, so there were no hard feelings. If anything, I am grateful to him – and not just because he brought me to Manchester. He was honest with me, very up front with what he felt I should do. That is all you can ask from a manager."
The array of strikers Manchester City have assembled is almost as daunting as that which confronted him at Real Madrid. He was Seville's undisputed centre-forward. He wore the No 9 shirt for the world champions. Why risk it in a World Cup season?
"I like to set myself challenges," is the reply. "When I was down in Seville, I also had a lot of competition. There was Luis Fabiano, there was Freddie Kanoute. So we are all here, trying to do the best we can, thriving from the competition."
It would have helped that City had already signed Jesus Navas, the man who supplied him with his crosses. When in March Seville destroyed Celta Vigo 4-1 at the Ramon Pizjuan, the sports paper Marca summed it up with the headline "Navas Creates, Negredo Executes".
"We have been together for four years now, so we understand how each other plays," he said of his partner who has yet to match Negredo's impact at the Etihad. "I don't even look to see where he is going to put the ball. I just know instinctively whether he is going to cross to the far post, the near post or in the middle. That kind of simplicity makes it very easy for me."
There is not, in truth, very much of Manchester in Manchester City. Pellegrini did not select a single Englishman to start the club's last two games, although since Norwich and CSKA Moscow were thrashed 7-0 and 5-2 respectively, it was hard to criticise. Spanish is increasingly the language of the club. Could Negredo see La Liga's biggest stars, perhaps even Lionel Messi, coming to England?
"Maybe in two or five years' time he will get bored with La Liga, want a change and come here," he said. "I would recommend it to him. People do paint it a bit black but you know it is not bad at all.
"There are a few things to get used to. The first thing I did was to buy an umbrella and in Seville we eat much, much later, but my family have settled in well and that is really important to me. It is one of the best decisions I have made on a personal and football level.
"The city is not too big. There hasn't been a lot of time to do much wandering around but I have signed a contract for four years so I have a while to find out about Manchester."
Sunderland v Manchester City is on Sky Sports 1, kick-off 2.05
Alvaro Negredo is wearing the new F50 football boots, part of the adidas Samba Collection inspired by Brazil. Visit www.adidas.com or join the conversation @adidasUK #F50 #allinornothing
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