Last week, we found out a bit more about Cristian Riveros. Today, we're finding out more about our other Paraguayan, Paulo Da Silva, and why it seems to have gone so wrong for what looked a promising player. To help us get to the bottom of the mystery, I was in touch with Kevin McCauley from SB Nation. You can find Kevin on Twitter @kevinmccauley or www.cartilagefreecaptain.com. Here's what he had to say...
Our defence is very fragile at the moment. With Ferdinand & Mensah potentially joining the lengthy injury list, the enigma that is Paulo Da Silva might be thrust into action soon. Any guess as to why Steve Bruce has been so reluctant to use him?
Kevin: Sadly, it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s slightly undersized and slightly slow for the Premier League. He had a very good World Cup and is a borderline legend at Toluca, but he was playing against different types of teams and attacking players. The Mexican league, while filled with some fantastic talent, is filled with talent that is very different from the Premier League. The player who is, in my opinion, the best player in all of North America is Humberto Suazo of Monterrey. Suazo is about 5’7" and not very fast, but his skill and intelligence is top shelf. There aren’t a lot of 6’0" or taller, insanely ripped, blazing fast strikers in Mexico. It’s about skill, not fitness and athleticism.
Even in the World Cup, Da Silva didn’t really face the kinds of strikers that thrive in the Premier League. Most of the guys he faced while playing New Zealand, Italy, and Slovakia were either very skilled players who would generally be considered too small for the Premier League or big bruisers who aren’t quick enough for the Premier League. As skilled as Italy is, they A. Play at a pace Da Silva is comfortable with and B. Were really bad in that tournament. I don’t think that any of Slovakia or New Zealand’s strikers are good enough to start in the Premier League, or any of Europe’s big four leagues for that matter.
So, for the tl;dr crowd, Steve Bruce has been reluctant to use Da Silva because he’s not a prototypical Premier League central defender, and his shining performances have been against teams playing a style of football that is not usually seen in the Premier League.
Bruce has accused the Mexican league of being "Tippy-Tappy football with little players". Is this a fair assessment?
Kevin: Absolutely not. Small players have the ability to thrive because of the prevalent style of football, but that’s still an unfair assessment. There are plenty of big, strong players that thrive in Mexico. I mentioned Suazo earlier, but all of the other forwards playing for Monterrey, the Mexican champions, are big dudes. Sergio Santana, Aldo de Nigris, and Dario Carreño are all 5’11" or taller and I would not call any of them too skinny. They also have an immensely talented defensive midfielder named Jesus Zavala who is a very big dude at 6’4". I would argue that one of the best players on the runner up, Santos Laguna, is and Felipe Baloy. He’s not small by any stretch of the imagination. However, the rest of their star players are 5’9" or shorter, so maybe Bruce has a bit of a leg to stand on.
The tippy-tappy part, though? I think that’s probably fair. I don’t know why that’s negative though. Is anyone really arrogant enough to think that their style of football is inherently better than another? At least half of the world thinks direct attacking football with nine men behind the ball is revolting. It’s the reason lots of Americans who are big fans of the Mexican Primera, South American football, Serie A, and La Liga refuse to watch Major League Soccer.
We thought Da Silva had an excellent World Cup, however Bruce thinks differently saying "He didn’t come up against big players". Gilardino, Vittek and Torres are all quality strikers and over 6ft in height. Did Da Silva encounter many "big" players in Mexico, and how did he handle them?
Kevin: I wonder if Bruce meant size or "big" as in big names and big talent. Either way, he’s wrong. New Zealand’s strikers are all huge dudes, although they’re all too slow for the Premier League. Italy and Spain’s strikers are all stars, and Japan’s are vastly underrated in my opinion. Still, Torres and Gilardino both looked atrocious in that tournament and none of the other big guys he faced are all that quick and skilled. So, while Bruce is wrong, da Silva has yet to face a world class true number nine while that player was playing at the top of his game.
Paulo has endured a miserable time in Europe, first not seeing much action at Venezia, and now the same thing with us. Could it be he’s just not cut out for life over here?
Kevin: The Venezia spell was very early in his career, so I think it’s unfair to take that into consideration at all. As for his recent spell, I think the Premier League was just an awful fit for him. I think that Da Silva could be a very solid central defender in either Serie A or La Liga right now, though I do think he would be a little way off being a true star. I’m just not sure why Sunderland bought him in the first place, to be honest. I think he’s cut out for Europe, but his game does not fit the Premier League.
If you were Sunderland’s manager, would you play him when we’ve got a fully fit squad?
Kevin: Absolutely not. Between Michael Turner, Anton Ferdinand, Titus Bramble, John Mensah, and Paulo Da Silva, it is ridiculous to conclude that Da Silva is one of the best two options out of those five players when all five are fit.
It’s also been proposed by a few fans that Da Silva can fill in at right-back or left-back if needed. Is this really true, and does he have any experience of those positions?
Kevin: I think this is a case of fans searching for some depth at those positions. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that Da Silva can play right or left back effectively in the Premier League.
The latest news is he could be off on loan to Club America, former club Toluca or Real Zaragoza in Spain. Which would be his best fit should he leave?
Kevin: He can make it in Spain, I think, but Zara is a serious train wreck right now that I would avoid like the plague. America are in an insanely difficult Copa Libertadores group and could really use another central defender. Toluca are a team in decline, in my opinion. I think that America is the best fit for him if he has the option of any of the three.
What do you think his transfer market value is, and has it been hurt by not playing for us?
Kevin: I do think that his value has been hurt. His age, 30 years old, doesn’t help either. It is very difficult to believe that anyone would pay £5m or more for him. I think that Club America would likely be willing to pay somewhere in the neighbourhood of £3m with a margin of error of £1m either way.
... and finally, time to dig out your crystal ball. Come the start of next season, where will Da-Silva be plying his trade?
Kevin: Club America.
Thanks once again for talking to us Kevin, it’s been a pleasure.