One of the things that Damien Comolli got right during his brief time with Liverpool was the effort to establish a working relationship with Uruguayan side Nacional, which produced both Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates. Coming near the height of Uruguay's success in international football--or at least before they started a miserable 2012--it seemed a wonderful idea, but ultimately led to little beyond a trial for four of the Uruguayan club's youngsters.
Having Suarez and Coates wasn't a terrible return as it was, though, with the striker proving to be worth every penny and the young defender showing glimpses of promise whenever given a chance. Most of his early appearances were marked by a moment of two of catastrophic naivete; prone to over-committing or just plain shutting off, he made a handful of errors that either led to goals or terrific chances for the opposition.
But he also showed plenty of the form that led to him being named the Best Young Player en route to Uruguay's title in the 2011 Copa America, with strength in the air, excellent anticipation and positioning, and a comfort with the ball at his feet that we'd only seen from Daniel Agger over the past few seasons. That Kenny Dalglish preferred Jamie Carragher was maddening, and rumors in the spring of a loan move were further confounding. He needed time, yes, but he was deserving of that time at Liverpool.
It seemed he'd get it under Brendan Rodgers, especially with the new manager picking him to partner Martin Skrtel against Manchester City early in the season--it was a fixture you'd have thought Jamie Carragher would play in, like it or not, but the young defender started and performed, and he'd been mostly solid in the appearances he made aside from an own goal against Udinese.
Chances have been few and far between, however, and once again there's talk of a move away from Liverpool for Sebastian Coates. Reports have swung between a permanent deal and a loan, and with Valenciennes defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin rumored to be one of the club's targets, it appeared that a move for Coates was very much on. Rodgers finally confirmed as much yesterday, briefly acknowledging that minutes have been hard to come by and that time spent elsewhere is a very real possibility:
"It's been difficult for him to get games. The best thing for Sebastián will be to go out and play some games."
On the one hand it's encouraging, with phrasing that hopefully indicates any departure from Liverpool would only be of the temporary sort, and at 22 years-old and a skill set that deserves first-team football, playing games is indeed the best thing for him. He's a player that would likely be granted regular minutes with a good team in a top-level league, making previous links with Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga sides not necessarily a bridge too far.
On the other hand it's somewhat frustrating, a sort of repeat of where things were at last spring--Jamie Carragher's third-choice...because, and while the form of Liverpool's top two central defenders warrants their place as first-choice, there's both domestic and European cup competition on the immediate horizon, and between form and fitness, there's no telling if third- or fourth-choice defenders will be needed. Bringing in a solid young central defender is a nice idea, just as keeping a solid young central defender would be.
Ideally there'd be enough minutes at Liverpool to satisfy Sebastian Coates now, but if not, the only move that would make sense would be a loan spell that's built to allow an immediate recall if need be, and that the club do add depth while retaining the Uruguayan's contract. Experience for Coates, another young, able-bodied central defender that fits the system, and building for a future beyond the time that Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are around.
It'd be a shame if that future didn't include Sebastian Coates, so let's hope whatever happens is the best for all involved, and that the solution involves keeping him with the club longer-term.