By Dan Brennan
At 33, the days of big transfers have long passed for most footballers, but for Argentinian central defender Mauricio Pellegrino, fate proved to have one more move in store.
The central defender left UEFA Cup holders Valencia CF for English giants Liverpool FC last week, and while his first game ended in a 1-0 defeat for Rafael Benítez's men at home against fierce rivals Manchester United FC, the tall, imperious defender has had no reason to rue his decision yet.
"I feel like a very lucky guy right now," he told uefa.com. "I've not had many transfers in my career, but the ones I have had have all been big ones. To get a move like this now, at my age, is a very nice present. I've worked hard all my career, and this is a great reward."
In the cold
The former CA Vélez Sarsfield and FC Barcelona player seemed to be set to end his career at the Mestalla, but when Benítez left the club to join Liverpool in the summer, Pellegrino found himself out in the cold under his successor, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri.
"Leaving Valencia was actually an easy decision to make," said the Argentinian. "I had a good relationship with the club, but I felt that the coach didn't respect me, and he was refusing to play me. It was clear they didn't want me any more, so to tell the truth, I didn't want to stay."
Reunited with the man who led Valencia to a Primera División and UEFA Cup double last season, the defender could not be happier. "Benítez knows me inside out," he said. "He told me he'd like me to captain the team at some point, just as I did when we were together at Valencia. He trusts me and I am determined to make sure he gets the best out of me."
He added: "Benítez is a great coach, he's got a fantastic knowledge of the game, and he understands where to use each player to best effect. He can bring the good times back to Liverpool.
I have always wanted to play in England. I could not sleep for several nights after the move was confirmed."
The Spanish coach has brought a distinctly latin flavour to Merseyside, and Pellegrino has joined five other Spanish-speaking players at Anfield. "That's definitely going to help a lot," said Pellegrino. "We'll get to know each other very quickly, and that will make a difference on the pitch."
The most recent arrival is striker Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid CF - an old adversary of Pellegrino's from his Primera División days. "He has huge experience and he could do great things for this team," said the defender. "He has the kind of ability that will make his team-mates and the fans very happy."
Pellegrino may be a less high-profile player than the top goalscorer in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League, but he will be hoping to make his new team's supporters every bit as happy. And of course, he cannot wait to soak up the atmosphere in the 2008 European capital of culture.
Occasionally referred to as the 'Fifth Beatle' by the Argentinian press, he has set himself a target for his first few weeks in his new home city. "The first free weekend I get I plan to visit everything in the city that is connected with the Beatles."
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