Maxi López: Underrated or Understudy?

Maxi’s loan contract with Milan happened under very unusual circumstances. He only became a Milan player after sitting in a hotel room for a week in Milan waiting. Waiting to see if we could get our first choice, fellow Argentinian Carlos Tevez. His signing would only happen if we couldn’t. And up until the very last minute of the Milan-imposed deadline, it looked like Maxi should pack his bags and head back to Catania. But for once, the well-traveled player’s luck  would have it that Milan would settle for their second choice. And despite very publicly being a second choice, he humbly and gratefully accepted the challenge to play for Milan. Is he underrated or an understudy?

The 27 year-old from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was actually born Maximiliano Gastón López. His career began with the River Plate youth team. After 5 years, he made his debut with the senior team at age 17. In 3½ years with River Plate, he made 60 appearances and had 20 goals.

Despite his reputation as an excellent striker, many were surprised when, in January of 2005, Barcelona came calling and paid 16.2 million euros for him. In fact, he became a bit of an internet sensation in Argentina, his good fortune being satirized, and then his subsequent poor fortune being explained in many ridiculous and outrageous ways. The fervency of such people in their claims led the movement to be known as the Maxilopezian “church.”

At Barcelona, he failed to get consisten first team play

At Barcelona, López scored a memorable goal on his European debut vs. Chelsea in the Champions League. And yet he only made 13 league appearances in his first full season at Barcelona. So he went to Mallorca on loan for the 2006-07 season, where he only scored 3 goals in 25 matches. During his time at Barcelona, they won la Liga in 2005 and again in 2006. They also won the Spanish Supercup in 2005 and the UEFA Champions League in 2006, so he does know how to win titles and celebrate. But was he just an understudy, or was he underrated?

Returning to Barcelona in the summer of 2007, he was sold to FC Moscow. At FC Moscow, he made 22 league appearances and scored 9 goals. However he was loaned to Brazilian club Gremio beginning in February of 2009. In Brazil, he had 25 starts and 11 goals, including 4 goals in the Copa Libertadores tournament.

Family man or troublemaker?

He was involved in a bit of scandal in June of 2009, when during the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores tournament, Cruzeirio player Elicarlos accused him of racism. Nothing was ever proven and no charges were made, and López denies the accusations.

After having been scouted by Catania, Chievo, Genoa, Ajax, and Wolfsburg during his time at Gremio, it was Catania who signed him to a 4 year deal in January of 2010. In 2 years with the club, he had 64 appearances and 22 goals. In the 2010-11 season, he was their top scorer, but in the first half of the 2011-2012 season, he only scored 4 goals in all appearances.

A star his first year and a half at Catania, his star faded a bit.

Which brings us to January of this year and his fateful hotel stay in Milan. After signing a 6 month loan deal with a requirement to buy in June, he debuted vs. Udinese with a goal and an assist. Whether or not he will continue to perform at this level in every match remains to be seen. And whether or not he will even be able to earn a starting berth with so much talent at Milan is actually unlikely.

He is also unlikely to earn a spot with the Italian national team. He represented Argentina at the U15, U17, and U20 levels, but with his dual citizenship could represent either country. Yet he has not been called up by either team, which makes me believe that he may be more understudy and less underrated.

Congratulations to the proud papa on child #3!

Other than the question of the possible racist incident, López seems to be a model player. He is married to Wanda Nara, and the couple just welcomed their 3rd child on Monday. (Congratulations, Papa López!) So he hardly qualifies to join our Reformers Anonymous Brute Squad that Galliani and Allegri have been working so hard to put together. But then again, with so many misfits, maybe a quiet, hardworking player is just what we needed to achieve more balance.

Welcome to Milan, Maxi!

Certainly the guy gets massive credit for being willing to play wherever, his career reads like a travelogue.  And he seems so genuinely grateful to have landed at a big club like Milan. Certainly, he earned his contract by waiting around in a hotel room as second choice. Maybe he is more understudy than underrated, but with all of our massive superstars at Milan, isn’t that just what we need? Someone who seems grounded and grateful and will work hard and play when called upon, even if that playing time is dictated by injuries? Or maybe he will be a little of both – the underrated understudy. Whichever it is, welcome, Maxi López. I think you are just what Milan has been needing.

Our next match is Milan vs. Juventus
Saturday, February 25th • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

This post inspired by Jack1899. Thanks for the idea, Jack!

Maxi López: Underrated or Understudy? Maxi López: Underrated or Understudy? Reviewed by Elaine on 1:13 AM Rating: 5
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