Why two years of development cannot just be forfeited

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It seems quite amazing to think that only two years ago Spanish defender José Enrique was about to begin a new season in the second tier of English football with Newcastle United. This week it seems likely that the 25-year-old is set to leave St James’ Park with a whole host of clubs chasing the highly-rated left-back.

Enrique, who has one year left on his contract, has made 119 appearances for the Magpies in his four years on Tyneside. He has recently stated that he is ‘happy’ to leave Newcastle this summer and looks ready to progress his career with talks breaking down over a new contract.

‘EL Toro’ (The Bull) was always known for his searing pace and was even a member of a local running club in his teens. He decided against perusing a career in athletics instead signing for home-town club Levante, making his professional debut at the age of 18 in 2004. He did enough in just 19 games to earn a dream move to his boyhood idols Valencia in the summer of 2005. But as soon as he had arrived he was back out again, this time on a season long loan at Celta Vigo where he impressed with some eye-catching performances, helping the side to 6th place in the Priméra Liga.

He left Valencia that summer, only a year after joining them and without playing a game for the club, joining Villarreal. As part of the ‘Yellow Submarines’ he played at St James’ Park in a friendly at the start of the 2006 season. His performance must have impressed the watching officials as exactly a year to the day he was back in the North East to finalise a £6.3m switch from Villarreal.

Constant managerial changes at the Newcastle meant he struggled to establish himself in the first team up until the 2009 season. However, when he finally became first choice left back he could do nothing to save the club from relegation at the end of the season and many expected the Spaniard to return to Spain.

Instead Enrique stayed at the club and played an integral part in the Newcastle title-winning side, picking up the Player of the Year award and gaining a place in the PFA Championship team of the season.

His short period in the Championship has developed him as a player adding consistency to already considerable attributes as a Premier League left-back. His return to top-flight was preceded by a season of high-quality performances and he is now regarded as one of the best left backs in the Premier League.

Enrique has reported back to pre-season training at Newcastle this week but he is not expected to be there much longer with Liverpool and Arsenal both in the hunt for a left back before the start of the new season.

The future of ‘El Toro’ may lie elsewhere, but looking back on how far the Spaniard has come in the last two years at St James’ Park, one can only imagine just how good Jose Enqrique would become if he stayed at Newcastle just a little bit longer.

Written by Aidan McCartney

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