Cristhian Stuani single-handedly taking Girona to the top
Background image: Sergey Chernov, CC BY 2.0
This past week, Luka Modric gave a moving speech about going from a nobody to the top of the world game after winning the Ballon d'Or. Few players ever make a top club like Real Madrid much less win the coveted prize. Nevertheless, their success stories can be as remarkable. Take Cristhian Stuani.
From his humble beginnings at Danubio, the Uruguayan has filed out for several clubs in his career. Reggina, Levante, Espanyol, Middlesbrough and now Girona. By Modric's standard, his success is minimal. Never has he had it as good as in this moment.
Following a rather forgettable two seasons with Boro, he returned to Catalonia to help newly promoted Girona secure an unlikely survival. Little did he know he was about to become a hero.
The 32-year-old carries La Blanquivermell on his shoulders. He's netted 11 times in just 12 league appearances and sits atop La Liga scoring charts. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Iago Aspas, Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, name them; they all trail behind in the race for the Pichichi.
The former Espanyol marksman has outscored the whole of his own squad put together. The next highest scoring teammate has two goals to his name. Stuani’s goals have been responsible for his team occupying seventh-place on the league table on21 points, seven behind leaders Barcelona. Meanwhile, traditionally successful sides like Valencia, Athletic Club and Villarreal are all struggling at the wrong end of the table.
There could be a problem for the Catalan side if the burden to carry the team becomes too heavy for the striker to bear. Lack of goals from other members of the squad is a problem that Stuani can do little to resolve. Any injury or poor run of form could spell doom for Eusebio Sacristan’s side. History has shown that sides that finish at or near the top of the table usually have goals spread across different players in the team.
For a small side like Girona, survival could be enough at season's end although Machin's success may have spoiled them. It's natural to desire more. To achieve that, others must score.
The January transfer window is an option. A capable partner will ease Stuani's burden and could make him even more lethal. With more goals from different sources, the team can press for a European place. After nearly an entire career in the wilderness, playing in Europe is no more than Stuani deserves.
His 21 goals lifted Pablo Machin's side all the way to tenth. For a debutante Primera Division, one that had never risen to this level, it was a huge achievement. The manager was rewarded for a job well done with an offer from perennial top-half side, Sevilla.
For his part, Stuani was selected to Oscar Tabarez's World Cup side. When a country boasts two world-class strikers, it can do without a player from Girona. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani lead the line at Barcelona [the real Catalan club] and Paris Saint-Germain respectively. Each wins trophies every season. The biggest achievement at Estadio Montilivi has been promotion to the top flight.
Even so, no one should ignore a striker who comes full of experience and firing on all cylinders. An injury to Cavani gave him the opportunity to feature at the tournament, although he failed to find the back of the net in his few minutes. Uruguay bowed out to eventual winners France at the quarter-final stage. Stuani put the disappointment behind him this season.