After an annoyingly protracted recruitment process (thanks for nothing, Huw Jenkins), Michu is finally, finally, a Napoli player. The former Swansea City attacker comes in on loan looking to redeem his form from two seasons ago, when he joined the Welsh side and took the Premier League by storm. Last season was marked by injuries and poor form, and just like that he found himself outside of his manager's plans.
Now, Napoli have given the Spaniard another chance, bringing him on loan and looking to slot him in to their attacking rotation, likely at multiple positions. What exactly will Michu be bringing to Rafa Benitez's side, though? Fortunately for you, we have the answers.
Forward / Attacking Midfielder
DOB: 3/21/86 (28) | Height: 6'3" (1.91 meters)
2014 Season: 24 appearances (22 starts)
6 goals, 6 assists
Strengths: Michu is almost preternaturally aware of what's going on in front of and around him, and he takes full advantage of that fact. He's not a burner with his pace, but he's quick enough in close areas and smooth enough with his ability to change directions that he can easily slide in to pockets of space to receive a ball or put himself in position to shoot or pass.
When it comes to shooting, Michu is much better with his left foot. With passing, though, he's good with both feet and utilizes both well. He's got a good variety and quality of passing that allows him to function very well as a playmaker behind the striker, or even as a playmaking striker if needed. His time as a "false nine" with Swansea two years ago serves as a good example of that.
As a striker, Michu's quick feet and good awareness give him a good ability to hold up the ball, using his footwork and deft touch to keep the ball away from defenders. It's not the more traditional shield-off style of hold up play, but it works. He's also good in the air thanks to some impressive body control, though he seems to need a bit more space than most to keep up that effectiveness.
Michu's versatility is also big for Napoli, who need to improve their quality of depth at a variety of positions. They also lacked for a proper reserve for Gonzalo Higuain and Marek Hamsik last year (well, for several years with Hamsik), and Michu helps fill both holes for the partenopei.
Weaknesses: The main issue with Michu is that he can be far too passive when his side is out of possession. Instead of pressing the ball or trying to find space to receive the ball on a counter, he has a bad habit of just... floating. Hanging around, waiting for something to happen. That can make him easier to mark out for a defense on top of it's game.
Also, for all Michu's quality up top in the air and in hold-up play, that quality is based on technique, not power. Michu isn't actually terribly strong (despite a solid frame, which is disappointing), and if he encounters a central defender who can keep up with him and sit on his pocket, he doesn't have the physical force needed to make things happen despite that.
There's also something of a general risk factor in this move. Michu is only available because last season went... poorly. He suffered multiple injuries and his form took a nosedive as a result. Michu's reached the age where it's harder to bounce back from that kind of falloff, so while we should be hopeful he returns to form, we can't expect it.
Summation: With a high-talent, versatile attacker in hand, and one who fits what Rafa Benitez does very nicely, it's very easy to like this deal. Especially when meshed with the very friendly deal that Napoli were able to get, it's a pretty dang good get for them.
If Michu plays well and Napoli want to bring him back, €8 million is a screaming deal for someone of Michu's raw talent. If he plays poorly, they send him back to Swansea and don't look back. It's a no-lose scenario, and you don't get a whole lot of those in football.
He fits the system, he fits the way the country plays, he fits the club's needs. This is a plum deal for Napoli. Michu is someone we should all be excited to see, and if Rafa can fix him, he can do a lot to help get Napoli over the hump.