Davide Santon was someone whose reputation preceeded him despite his young age. Arriving on Tyneside full of promise, he has come into the Newcastle side with a lot of pressure on his young shoulders.
Being touted as the next Maldini is about as big a compliment as can be paid but also comes with an air of expectancy to live up to that claim, and as we have seen time and time again in football “the next” generally proves to be nowhere near.
Now not for a second do I expect Santon to be as good as Maldini, probably not even half the player, but that is no disrespect to the lad, more so said in knowing that Maldini may well be the best defender of all time, certainly up there.
Davide’s Newcastle career got off to a rocky start with a knee injury which kept him out for around four weeks. Luckily it required no more than some fluid to be drained which is a common after-effect of having knee surgery and aside from it cropping up a couple of weeks ago he was back to full fitness in no time.
Initially though, that concern, along with Alan Pardew’s desire to ease him in to life in England, learn the game and the language etc before giving him his chance, proved frustrating for Toon supporters looking for someone, and seeing Santon as the signing to fill the void left by the departure of Enrique.
Credit where it is due, Ryan Taylor, somewhat helped by Jonas Gutierrez, filled in at left back and by all accounts has done a job there for us which we should be grateful for, but I think in the long run we all knew, and certainly hoped, that Santon or someone new would be assigned to the role.
As it turns out it is Davide who has taken over at left back in recent games and by all accounts looks every bit the hugely promising talent we had all heard about. Strong in the air with a good positional sense he seems sounder in defence than Ryan Taylor but that is not where his real strength lies.
As we have seen lately, his comfort in possession, energy and ability to get up and down the line as if he grew up loving Cafu is something to be really excited about. In fact I would say most excited of all is Gutierrez who can now push forward more and also be supported by a full back ever-willing to bomb up the line too.
Pardew praised Santon for his performance against Manchester United in which he kept last years Player of the Year at Old Trafford quiet for the most part, and only yesterday Pardew once again praised the impressive display he showed against Blackburn in the FA Cup win.
Unfortunately I, like everyone else who was not at the game, did not get to witness how he or the team performed but from what Pardew said, Santon and Jonas were absolutely outstanding, especially 2nd half along with Hatem Ben Arfa.
The left sided pairing seem to be striking up an immediate trust and understanding which can only benefit Newcastle in an attacking sense. Defensively, Santon is a better defender than Ryan, simple as. I think that was never going to be in question, but there is something that is.
He is all right foot and would probably be more comfortable playing on the opposite wing in place of Danny Simpson. Lately however, Danny has been like a man possessed and all signs indicate that the men with the pens see fit to get his contract situation tied up very soon.
So, for all the talk of still needing a left back, have we in fact has one laying in wait who could be just the ticket or do supporters still feel like Simpson should be replaced with Santon going to a more natural position for a right-footed player?