We've already looked back at he so-so performances of Matej Delac and Ben Gordon in Colombia, so today we're going to take a look at the performances given by 19 year old Oriol Romeu. Romeu played a total of four games in the tournament, two in the group stages, the round of 16 game, and the quarterfinal where Spain was eliminated in a fantastic matchup with Brazil. While I had seen lots of Gordon and Kakuta before, I was less versed in Romeu. If this tournament was any sort of indicator of how he typically plays, then it was a very shrewd signing indeed.
The "bulldozer" lived up to his nickname in all four matches. Watching him play was amazingly similar to the simple beauty of watching John Obi Mikel. Many fans won't appreciate the type of player he is, but he's a great tackler, fantastic passer who doesn't make silly turnovers, and he was never caught out of position. Of all the Chelsea players in the tournament he was by far the most impressive, and he was probably among the top 5 players in the entire tournament. I don't think I saw him miss a pass throughout the tournament, a detail which was made even more impressive by the fact that he was always passing the ball forward.The only real downside of his play this tournament was that he showed a strong propensity towards collecting yellows. He was forced to sit out Spain's final game of the group phase for accumulated yellows, although he may not have featured anyway as Spain had already clinched their group at that point. None of the bookings were for particularly bad tackles or plays, but rather for a build up of fouls. His pattern of accumulating quite a few fouls during the course of the matches that will eventually lead to bookings more often than not, and many of the fouls were on less than dangerous situations where he would have been better off simply avoiding the challenge. If that's my biggest gripe about a 19 year old though, then he's doing quite a few things right.
We likely won't see too many instances where Romeu is scoring goals or getting assists, as he's definately better at starting the attack and organizing the defense. He did convert a penalty kick for Spain in their shootout win over South Korea, which can be found in the highlight package shown here:
I'm not going to bother showing the highlights from the other Spanish matches, as the type of play Romeu tends to be involved in doesn't really get put into those types of packages very often. I think he's going to be a valuable player to have in the club this year, as from everything I've seen I'd be comfortable with him as our primary backup to Mikel right now. He's amazingly tactically sound for a player his age, especially one with defensive responsibilities.
Romeu arrived in London to begin training this week, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him included on the bench for Norwich next weekend. I'd also assume he will see the lions share of the starts for the reserve team, as Mikel has been on excellent form with all things considered so far this season. I'm definitely more excited about this signing than I was a few weeks ago, and the more I see of this kid the more I hope we manage to hide him enough that Barca don't trigger their buyback next summer. After watching him play the last few weeks, I really think this will turn out to be a brilliant piece of business. Either we double or triple our investment for a season or two of valuable cover, or we just stole this kid for peanuts. This looks like a win-win to me.