The Pablo Mari insight
Arsenal are set to confirm the signing of Flamengo center back Pablo Mari in the coming days, so here’s all you need to know about the Spaniard.
BACKGROUND: Pablo Mari was a graduate of RCD Mallorca’s youth system, starting his senior career at the age of 17. While he does have 2 appearances in La Liga, most of them were restricted to Mallorca’s B side. After impressing in a spell at a Spanish third division side in Gimnàstic, he was identified by Manchester City scouts, signing for them as a 23 year old. However, he came at a time when City had the likes of Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and had just committed £47.5 million to John Stones. Mari needed game time and was loaned to 3 different sides for the next 3 seasons – First to Spanish 2nd division side Girona, followed by a move to NAC Breda in Eredivisie where he was given the captaincy and finally a move to Deportivo de La Coruña in the Spanish second division. Last year he finally left Manchester City permanently and got a move to Flamengo.
It was at Flamengo where he really made a name for himself under the guidance of Portueguese coach Jorge Jesus, winning the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A and Copa Libertadores, as well as getting into the team of the season. Fair to say he’s been an itinerant throughout his career, playing for 5 clubs till date – Arsenal will be his 6th club at just 26 years of age.
I spoke to Brazilian football expert and Lance journalist Sergio Santana, you can find him on twitter @sergiostn_ , asking him various pertinent questions on Pablo Mari, here is what he had to say:
On his contributions with Flamengo: “Pablo Mari just spent six months at Flamengo. While Jorge Jesus’ team was very good, Pablo improved Flamengo’s defense a lot. He adapted quickly to Brazilian football and went on to become a leader. He emerged as a very important player for the national and continental (liberadores) titles.”
On his playing style: “He’s a defender with great passing skills, which can fit well into Mikel’s style. He’s reliable when it comes to long passes, as well as being proficient in aerial duels.”
On his one biggest strength: “Initiating attacks through his excellent passing ability.”
On his one biggest weakness: “Speed. He’s not that fast and this will hurt a little bit in the beginning when he tries to adapt to the Premier league.”
On whether he can be immediate starter at Arsenal: “He’s not the guy to come into the team and start games immediately. He will be more like a backup option for the CB position. But, there’s a thing: Marí is evolving so much, as evidenced by the recent months and this can help. Mustafi, for example, is only on the decline.”
On if he is a leader: “In Flamengo, yes. One of the most important players of the team in terms of leadership and mentality.”
MY VERDICT: It seems like Arsenal have got a pretty decent player on their hands. Reputed Brazilian journalist Mauro Cezar (@maurocezar) has confirmed to me that we will be signing him on a permanent basis immediately and not a loan with an option/obligation to buy. We need to trust Edu on this one. We’ll need to be a bit patient with him initially, but we have lacked a proper left footed defender since the days of Thomas Vermaelen. At around €8m and a normal wage, this represents a low risk signing with potential to become a great one. A lot better than investing on finished players like Jerome Boateng. I feel confident that we will sign a marquee centre back come summer and until then, Pablo Mari could be a great squad player for us, with potential to do even better. Well done Edu.