His certainly isn’t one of the names La Liga uses when it advertises itself around the world – Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and now even Diego Costa are amongst those who possess that accolade – butPatrick Ebert is another with a penchant for the spectacular, which makes him the leader of La Liga’s underrated superstars.
Roberto Trashorras, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio García and Ander Herrera are perhaps a few others in that bracket but with the exception of Rakitic, no one possesses the box office qualities of Ebert. He’s the superstar that hit a wall in Germany before arriving in Spain to reignite his career.
To think, the sharp minds at Valladolid picked him up in the summer of 2012 on a free transfer. He was one of several astute signings made by the club, but by far the one that stood out the most. Soiled goods for many, unfashionable to some and with an undeniably chequered history – no one but a Valladolid side with barely a single euro to their name took a chance.
They were rewarded with a debut season in which he scored 6 times and assisted 7 more in 29 appearances; all at a club battling in the lower echelons of the table, finding their feet in their first La Liga season. Some fine coaching by Miroslav Djukic was in part reason for them staying up, plus the performances of several other individuals. It was Ebert who shone brightest however, earning a WhoScored.com rating of 7.46 over last season – the 4th best in the league – and he’s doing it all again.
On Friday evening against Rayo Vallecano he cut inside from the right onto his weaker foot and drilled a shot into the roof of the net. Another piece of magic from a player that has, when fit, conjured up such moments on a regular basis. The strike was his 3rd goal of the season, and put together with his 4 assists you have a 50% contribution to Valladolid’s 14 goals this season. No one is more influential; Neymar, Messi, Costa… none of the names that are used to sell La Liga to the masses. Maybe if more people knew about Ebert, and the others mentioned before, La Liga wouldn’t be pigeon holed as simply a two-team league.
Ebert’s influence on Valladolid far surpasses that 50% direct contribution – he’s a unique player in their setup, with a skill set no one else possesses. No other Valladolid player has the ability to swing a game like he can, provide a striker from distance or a piece of vision to create an opening. His 4 assists are the most on the team and overall in La Liga only four payers have more. He’s currently level with Messi in said category. His 1.6 key passes per game are the most at Valladolid too, and that same average sees the German share a spot with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Ander in this category.
Last night against Real Sociedad, it was Ebert who was key in his team’s comeback to secure a priceless point, though admittedly a penalty miss by the German stopped ‘Pucela’ from claiming all three. Still, it was Ebert who drove down the left side on the two occasions leading to each goal; first he sprayed a pass from left to right, switching the play to Omar Ramos who delivered a fine cross for Daniel Larsson to score. Then, to level it up, Ebert delivered a low pass to Javi Guerra, who played a one-two with Larsson, before finding the net. The penalty that he missed was also due to his own provocation after his shot struck the hand of Markel González. Ebert’s 81 touches were the most on the field out of any player, while his 4 out of 6 accurate long balls emphasised his ability to open up the field.
Another interesting statistic last night saw Ebert make 4 interceptions which, over the course of the game, was more than any of his teammates bar Carlos Peña. It shows the unselfish, workmanlike aspects of the game drilled into him by Djukic last term have stuck. Ebert, from his right interior role, joins in with central aspects of play, getting behind the ball and maintaining Valladolid’s ridged shape. His interceptions currently stand at 1.3 per game for the season, while his tackles sit at 1 per game.
It’s in an offensive sense that he prospers most, however, and where he can offer versatility. Although often picked on that right side, Ebert ghosts between the lines and into central areas. Here he is difficult to pick-up for opponents to maintain a hold of. His vision not only allows him to move the ball from one side to another but also knit together short, intricate passes with teammates. His crossing too, at 1.5 per game accurate, is the most at Valladolid.
In front of goal his three strikes thus far have shown just how vital he can be backing up the strikers, and with 2.9 shots per game he’s having more efforts on goal than anyone else at Valladolid. His goals, similarly to how he often uses variation in his game, have come from different means too. One from the left foot, another from the right and a header too.
Ebert needs only 3 more goals and 3 more assists to match his tallies in those respective columns for last season, and all this after just 8 appearances. Form will not be Ebert’s biggest battle this season, but instead it will be fitness. The German misses a lot of football over the course of a season through injury and a team in Valladolid’s position can’t afford for their superstar to be absent. Ebert himself needs to be playing if he’s to realise those ambitions and aspirations many German football fans had of him when he was first coming through the system.Published 31 Oct 2013, 20:53 IST