In the immediate aftermath of Manchester City FC's chastening home defeat by FC Bayern München a fortnight ago, Álvaro Negredo was asked if there were any positives he could take from an evening that brought his first UEFA Champions League goal for his new club.
Negredo said there were none, only too aware that his strike – a fine left-foot shot on the turn – was a mere footnote on a night of Bayern brilliance. With hindsight, though, it might be worth revising that view given Negredo's effort was the spark for an impressive scoring run by this strong, accomplished centre-forward whose hot streak could prove significant when Manuel Pellegrini's City resume their Group D campaign in chilly Moscow on Wednesday.
Negredo has now found the target in four consecutive matches, building on his Bayern goal with the equaliser against Everton FC in City's subsequent Premier League outing three days later. It was a timely strike that came shortly after City had fallen behind, proving the catalyst for a confidence-restoring victory.
He then went away with Spain and kept the run going, coming off the bench to hit the second goal in last Friday's win over Belarus and netting again on Tuesday when starting his country's final FIFA World Cup qualifying tie against Georgia in Albacete.
Negredo underlined his confidence by almost scoring with a stunning overhead kick from the edge of the box that drew a smart save from the Georgia keeper. It was a performance that led Marca to enthuse about the "bite" of a player nicknamed 'The Shark', who – the sports daily informed readers – has the third-best scoring rate in Spanish national team history, with ten goals from 19 appearances.
Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach, said Negredo still had a "a lot of potential to tap". This may sound an odd comment about a 28-year-old but belongs in the context of a €25m player who tasted just 55 minutes of action at UEFA EURO 2012 with a side that preferred a false No9 to a real one, and who had not started a 2014 World Cup qualifier until this week.
A player who developed with Real Madrid Castilla but never stepped up to the first team at the Santiago Bernabéu, he has had to battle for recognition on the club scene too – spending two seasons on loan with UD Almería before joining Sevilla FC in 2009. At 28, though, he is in his prime. He notched 25 Liga goals for Sevilla last term and in England, where he is still finding his feet, has four goals already, at a rate of one every 119 minutes.
In the UEFA Champions League he has had only two substitute outings so far, though the view of Andy Hinchcliffe, the former City and England full-back who was commentating on the Bayern game, is that Negredo is a more complete player than Edin Džeko – more accomplished in terms of holding the ball up and linking play, and already showing signs of a good understanding with Sergio Agüero. What has happened since has merely strengthened his case for a place in the first XI at PFC CSKA Moskva next week.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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