The excitement is at fever-pitch around Gino Peruzzi on Wearside at the moment, so what sort of a player can we expect to be getting?
Sam Kelly: He's a young full-back who can also play wide midfield if called upon (though he's not got as much experience there) and who has come through Vélez Sarsfield's very impressive youth academy. He knows when to dive in and when to stay on his feet, and is very able going forward.
There's certainly a lot of hype too, would you say he justifies it?
SK: Well, given my place in the scheme of journalism about Argentine football, I'm probably guilty for a fair bit of it...
There were reports that he was on the radar of Manchester City and Inter Milan. Were these ever serious do you know?
SK: Yes. Manchester City have sent scouts down to Buenos Aires a fair few times in the last year or year and a half and there was interest in Peruzzi (among plenty of others) from them at one point. Inter were reported as wanting him as a long-term replacement for Javier Zanetti, who apparently gave Peruzzi his personal seal of approval. I'm a little hazier on the exact details of that, but they've also sent scouts to BA on a regular basis in the last couple of years, and he can't have gone un-noticed.
The story of him apparently keeping Neymar in his back pocket have been reported ad-nauseum. Did you see that game, and would you say this was accurate?
SK: Did I see it? I present the podcast (click here to listen) that's been raving about those performances ever since! I also wrote this for ESPN mentioning (albeit in passing) those performances after the players' first meetings, in last year's Copa Libertadores quarter-finals. Those aren't the only times Peruzzi's played against Neymar; there were two subsequent friendlies between Argentine and Brazilian 'local national sides' - made up solely of players plying their club trade in the two countries - during which Peruzzi again kept Neymar quiet. That's not, of course, to say that if Sunderland meet Barcelona in competitive action in the next couple of years the story would necessarily be repeated, but what you've heard about those performances isn't exaggerated.
What would you say are Peruzzi's strengths?
SK: He's got a good engine and is very good at linking up with his team-mates as he moves up the pitch, as well as a dangerous range of passing when he decides cut inside in the final third. Basically, all the stuff you expect from a kid who's been referred to as the next Javier Zanetti, and who was almost bought to replace Zanetti himself. He's also shown himself to stand up well psychologically in big matches.
And of course we'd have to ask if there's any weaknesses to keep things fair...
SK: Well, he's only just turned 21, so of course the side of his game that's still got to develop a lot is the mental side. His positioning sometimes - though not often - lets him down, and although he's got a lot of stamina, he's not an especially quick player (I'm not accusing him of being a slouch, mind you), so that can make those situations tricky to recover from. As he moves from defence into attack, he's going to find himself given a lot less time on the ball in England than he was afforded in Argentina, as well, and I'll be interested to see how quickly he adapts to that (as I am with any player who moves directly from Argentina to England).
Is it seen as a big story in Argentina? It seems to have been over here and in Europe.
SK: The clubs, fans and press here are perfectly used to losing their best young players on a regular basis, and any club who aren't called River Plate or Boca Juniors get significantly less media coverage than the clubs who are called River Plate and Boca Juniors, so it's not a particularly big story, no. The fact that another Argentine is moving to the country where the sport started out will fire the imaginations of one or two writers, no doubt, once the season gets underway.
Who might he be comparable to?
SK: I believe I've already dug a hole for myself on this one by mentioning Zanetti. In fairness, he's also comparable to Phil Bardsley, though. In that he's quite a lot better.
Do you think he'll be a success in the Premier League with Sunderland?
SK: As long as 'success' is defined realistically, then yes I do. As I say, it might take him a while to settle in at first, but in the medium- to long-term, I think he'll fit in just fine in England. Putting things at the most base, distasteful level, I'd be astonished if Sunderland end up making a loss on him if he gets sold on at some point. If the US$5m transfer fee that's been reported in Argentina is accurate, you've got a phenomenal bargain.
Thanks very much to Sam for providing some excellent insight on Gino Peruzzi. Check out his excellent Argentine football podcast Hand Of Pod HERE, his blog Hasta El Gol Siempre HERE and for daily musings follow @HEGS_com on Twitter!