Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish has every confidence in the ability of his Ecuadorian acquisitions, Christian Benitez and Giovanny Espinoza, despite admitting that he has been unable to see either play in the flesh.
The Scot usually has a policy of running the rule over any target in person before deciding whether to make a move and McLeish’s failure to do so in the case of Benitez and Espinoza is likely to draw disbelief in certain quarters.
One such manager was Sven Goran Eriksson when he took charge of Manchester City in 2007, although the Swede was reported to have purchased eight players based on video evidence. However, in truth and in fairness to McLeish, times have changed and you can now gauge as much, if not more, about a player from your computer as if you were sat in a South American stadium.
The state-of-the-art technology involved at the top level of football means that a manager can access precise statistics about virtually any player in the world at the touch of a button.
Football club’s scouting networks have also become far more advanced and McLeish’s contacts are a prime example of a far-reaching and eagle-eyed team.
Which makes it easy to understand why McLeish is convinced he has made the right decision with record-signing Benitez and Espinoza. He said: “I’ve always tried to see players personally, it’s very difficult for managers nowadays, at the drop of a hat, to go and watch games whenever it presents itself. Having not seen Benitez or Espinoza in the flesh, you have that element of not being sure but there’s no doubt in the credentials of those players, Espinoza has got over 80 caps, Benitez is a new kid on the block who has been an absolute thorn in the side of the top South American teams – the Argentinians, the Brazils; he gave Brazil water in the head during the last game, so there is fantastic potential there.
“Players like that don’t come cheap and I am really looking forward to working with Benitez in the front line and hopefully he can cause English defences the same kind of problems that he caused the South Americans.”
Striker Benitez has obtained a visa that allows his transfer from Mexican club Santos Laguna to be closer to completion – he was believed to be having his medical yesterday. Centre-half Espinoza’s move from Ecuador’s Sporting Club Barcelona was completed last week.
Birmingham’s 18-year-old defender, Jacob Rowe, has signed a one-year professional deal.