Perhaps there is one big signing on the horizon for Sunderland. If reports are to be believed, Gus Poyet's unsurprising penchant for fellow South Americans (mainly Argentinians) looks set to land a little bombshell in Ignacio Scocco. There's a lot we can learn about 'Nacho' through his time in Greece with AEK, so we found just the man to tell us all about him.
The well-travelled 28 year old Argentine International's career has spanned over three continents and five countries with spells in Mexico, Brazil, Greece, the UAE and of course his home country of Argentina. Nacho has scored goals wherever he has been, including being top scorer in the 2012-13 Argentine Primera Division campaign, where he picked up a winners medal alongside Sunderland loan signing and fellow countryman Santiago Vergini. That was the second winners medal he picked up from that particular league, but he also picked up a Greek Cup winners medal in 2011.
That brings me on nicely to introduce Alex from the excellent AEK Athens blog site AEK Archives, who was all too happy to share his experience of a player he is a massive fan of;
WAW: We've heard a lot of good things about Ignacio Scocco, but he's a player we don't know a great deal about. Can you tell us what kind of a forward he is?
Alex: He's suited for playing at the top of the midfield and behind the strikers, rather than as a pure striker. His technique is some of the best that I've ever seen live, and he is able to make so much out of almost any situation. He's dangerous from both the center as well as the sides, and is able to cut into the box with a lot of control. He is also equally dangerous from far out (See his away goal against Aris on youtube for example, in a 0-4 game, or his two goals when we beat Olympiakos away 1-2) and inside the box.
WAW: What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Alex: As far as strengths, he had many.
His ball control and creativity were always two of his greatest attributes. He was not the greatest playmaker, in the sense that he didn't really have that instinct for passing, but he led to many chances and goals through the way he was able to weave the ball into the box or in a dangerous position. Also worth noting that he is quite strong with his left foot as well (though right was his dominant foot). Basically, the thing with Scocco was he provided creativity and momentum going forward, he brought more speed and efficiency to our attack whenever he played. He was also a pretty solid free-kick taker.
The way he could score so freely and easily from almost any angle, location on the pitch, or situation, was definitely his biggest advantage for me. His attacking instinct was also another one. He was always eager to move forward and score, and it so often paid off. He was also able to perform well with many different squads since he was a creative player and did much of the work himself. His playing style would fit in well regardless of who was playing around him. This is all in addition to the advantages I mentioned above.
Now for the disadvantages. Many AEK fans got the impression that he chose at which games he'd perform well, in a way. His performance in derbies was consistently strong, though it did seem at times, particularly against smaller opponents, that he wouldn't always give as much effort as he could. This was just the impression that I got, and I have no way of knowing if its true. Of course, football players do have games where they're just not at their best. Its also worth mentioning that Greece is not an ideal place to play football, particularly with AEK at those times. The team was in a tight financial situation, players didn't know when or if they would get paid, managers were coming and going, pressure from the fans in the stands was high, so all this can have an impact on the way someone would perform. I'm curious to see if this will be the case in a more stable environment, though I do not think it will be. He also often did not contribute as much defensively. Sure, he was an attacking player, but when other attacking players would drop back and provide support he often would not. Perhaps he had orders from the manager to stay up, I'm not sure. He could have been waiting for possible counter attacks, during which he was very strong (his creativity in one on one situations was pretty solid).
He also had a bit of an attitude. He got in arguments with both the managers and another player at one point, however I would like to think that perhaps much of that won't be the case as he ages. He was often regarded as the best player for AEK, and one of the best in Greece at the time, so perhaps it all got to his head. Also worth noting however that the people he got into arguments with were also extremely stubborn or arrogant, which would not have helped. Much of this was in the locker rooms at least, and it never affected performances on the pitch. Its also worth keeping in mind that Greek newspapers like to exaggerate stories so they can sell more papers, so its very possible that any of the incidents involving Scocco were exaggerated considerably.
WAW: After a bit of research it is clear he is quite versatile in attack - what would you say is his best position?
Alex: So as I mentioned earlier, his best position would be at the top of the midfield. Difficult to say though whether that would be at the center of the pitch or at the side. Both suited him, and he would sort of fluctuate between the center and the wings (specifically the left wing) during games. He had this great ability of cutting into the box from the wing and going for goal or setting up another player, and I feel that on the wing was where he operated best. Basically though, any position other than being a pure striker up at the front would suit him best. He works well with space, and his ball control is excellent, so he is someone you can take advantage of and have move the ball around and create chances.
WAW: His move from AEK to the UAE and Al Ain (a similar move to Asamoah Gyan who left Sunderland for the same club) seemed a strange transfer. Can you tell us what brought this about and do you think Scocco is a player motivated more by money?
Alex: Well, I believe money must certainly have played a part in it. Afterall, he has a family, as well as family back in Argentina. And a career in football never lasts long, so perhaps he saw an opportunity and decided to take it for a year or two. One must remember that he had just finished playing for AEK, in a country experiencing an economic crisis, as well as a team with an economic crisis of its own. His time of AEK would have, unfortunately and undeservedly, been characterized by unsteady and uncertain arrival of paychecks. I think its quite possible he was just looking for a bit of security for a little while. I would not say however that he was motivated first and foremost by money. There were strong indications that he had opportunities to sign for Olympiakos yet he never took advantage of that, and decided to remain with AEK. I think if he really was motivated entirely by money, he would have left AEK earlier rather than spend three seasons with the team.
WAW: The English Premier League is a very physical league, do you think Scocco could be a good Premier League player?
Alex: Thats a good question regarding how he'd perform in a more physical league. I would not categorize him as weak, and I think his ball control under pressure will bode well for him. The physicality of Greek football really does not compare to that of English football, so I really cannot say for sure. He does not give up the ball easily, and is eager in attack, so I think he'll be able to stand his ground. The better quality pitches in England will also suit his playing, considering some of the poor quality pitches he played on in Greece.
WAW: Do you have any interesting stories or facts that our readers might be interested in?
Alex: He used to hang out with the other Argentinian players in our squad, and they would often go for coffee at the coffeeshop that was directly underneath my bedroom balcony. He likes to get out, and enjoys interacting with fans. As I was walking in town I saw him on a number of occasions at cafes or restaurants, sitting right by the street rather than hiding away from the public (even if it meant having his name chanted by supporters like myself while he was trying to eat his meal).
WAW: Finally, do you think this is a good signing for Sunderland?
Alex: I honestly do think it will be a good singing for Sunderland and I hope I'm not wrong, for your sake as well as his. I've always felt he deserved a chance to play at a quality European club. He is a great player to watch, extremely creative, eager to attack, scores great goals. I think he will be especially eager to prove himself in a major league. I haven't seen him play much at all since he left AEK, though my father and I have been following the reports from the Greek press about his playing since, and his name so often shows up, either with regards to yet another excellent goal he scored, or his performance with the Argentinian squad. It seems like his attacking instinct has certainly not diminished since he left AEK.
Thanks to Alex for taking the time to answer our questions - it certainly makes you hope this deal happens!