This article forms the launch of our Spotlight series where Nothing But Newcastle will shine a light on individual players who have made Newcastle United news, whether they be at the club already or not.
According to the Sun, the Magpies are closing in on a move for Rodrigo Vilca after a £120,000 bid was accepted by Peruvian giants Municipal Deportivo. A 21-year-old attacker, a move for the South American midfielder would represent a departure from Newcastle’s transfer strategy this season. Indeed, the major arrivals (Callum Wilson, Jamal Lewis, Jeff Hendrick and Ryan Fraser) have 403 Premier League appearances combined to call upon, whereas Vilca (according to Transfermarkt) has just 27 outings to his name in the Peruvian capital.
So, to put together a profile on the Toon’s potential next swoop, Nothing But Newcastle sat down with Peru-based football journalist Diego Montalvan.
Where does Vilca play?
Montalvan describes Vilca as an ‘attacking midfielder who is comfortable as a 10, 8 or even a LW’. Indeed, that kind of versatility could certainly prove useful for a side not exactly blessed with attacking talents outside of the starting XI and he also draws comparison with compatriot, Christian Cueva.
The latter (a full international) has been noted (via WhoScored) for his through balls, ability to dribble and crossing and the journalist also likens him to a current Newcastle star. Indeed, he said ‘another pure 10 you could compare him to is Miguel Almiron, although he gets fouled a lot more.’
Drawing fouls has been a problem for the Magpies. Last season, only Danny Rose drew over two per game and, with the England international having departed, possessing a player who can put defenders under pressure and set-up dangerous free-kicks could be a useful option.
How is he viewed in Peru?
Montalvan spoke of the buzz surrounding Vilca in his home country: ‘Peruvians are very excited for him. Since his debut, he’s been growing in confidence.’
His growth in that department is evident when you look at his form over the last few games of the 19/20 season. After making his Liga 1 debut during the back end of the 18/19 campaign, he managed 1 goal in 10 appearances before forcing his way onto first-team proceedings far more regularly in 19/20. During that season, 10 starts yielded 6 goal involvements (3 goals, 3 assists) and they actually came over the course of eight consecutive games.
‘His current coach, Victor ”Chino” Rivera has given him the confidence he needed to shine and that has shown over the last year, leading to being called up to the Peruvian national team for the first time’, explained Montalvan.
Can he suit the Premier League?
‘I think Vilca can suit the Premier League over the next few seasons, for sure, but there needs to be some work done’. The physicality shown in the Premier League is not the same as Liga 1′, he said. ‘In order for him to succeed, I think he needs to gain some muscle and have the confidence from his coach and teammates.’
Bulking up to deal with the demands Premier League is a fairly common phenomena and not one that should deter Newcastle fans from getting excited they could potentially be seeing a talented (albeit relatively unproven) attacker join the club. A certain Cristiano Ronaldo took a few years to get his body in shape to impact Premier League matches consistently, after all. Though, clearly, no one is expecting him to go on to match the heights Ronaldo scaled.
How are Newcastle as a club viewed in Peru?
‘Newcastle is a club loved by Peruvians, obviously having the Nolberto Solano link is a big plus. With that said, I think the connection died down a bit after Solano retired. Bringing a Peruvian back to Tyneside would be great for both parties, a win-win’, the journalist said when asked the question above.
‘Newcastle would have a prospect that could help them for some time. Let’s also not forget to mention the marketing, jersey sales and for the amount that is being asked for him, it’s a steal!’
Though it’d be outlandish to suggest Vilca is anywhere near as big a star as James Rodriguez, Everton themselves commented – on their official website – that his arrival had made ‘global impact’. According to their site, ‘the marketing activity builds on the Club’s existing programme of activity and engagement in North and South America, with James’ signing now accelerating its overall international growth strategy.’
Clearly, it is something clubs consider when it comes to potentially bringing in targets and, while no one is expecting his prospective signing to make a similar impact to James’ given their difference in profile, perhaps the Magpies could at least grow their brand in Peru further.
Diego Montalvan is a Peruvian football journalist who has worked for the likes of NBC Sports and ESPN, you can follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with all things Vilca here.