Michael Bailey: The transfer jewel in Norwich City’s crown that could take them to another level
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey hails Emi Buendia – the Argentine starlet the Canaries had been waiting for.
It was the one we – like Norwich City – had been chasing for a while.
The rumours were floating around for weeks last summer, of City's potential transfer raid in La Liga. Who, how and where were all questions left hanging until the ice finally broke – and our exclusive soon followed.
Emi Buendia was a name known to Leeds United fans thanks to speculation linking them with the young Argentine forward back in January 2018.
Premier League Swansea had been associated similarly in the 12 months before Norwich's move was made public for the then 21-year-old, who had played against some of football's biggest names – but was equally sent out from Getafe to spend a season in the Spanish second tier, on loan at Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa.
La Cultural were relegated to the third tier that campaign, despite Buendia's best efforts.
Some may have also clocked the undisclosed fee City paid – believed to be about £1.5m. Hardly a statement of the Canaries' Championship intent.
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'Everyone welcome the new and cheaper Ricky van Wolfswinkel,' read one comment on the foot of our story confirming Buendia's arrival. 'Not impressed; judging by the (video) clips, (he) should fit in a treat as (he's) all huff and no puff,' stated another poster.
Oh the joys of each and every transfer and transfer window.
Of course when a new signing arrives, no one really knows what they are going to get. Every care will be taken to give each move the best possible chance of working out – even then, things can and do go wrong.
In this case, there was clear excitement. City were clever and creative, seizing on Getafe's financial constraints.
And although they could not get the deal done in January 2018 as Alex Pritchard paved his own way to the Premier League, Norwich still took the considered and considerable risk of signing the deal – basically leaving them to wait things out until the summer window arrived and Buendia officially became a City player.
I remember the story well, because Buendia's name popped up in my chat with City's business and project director Zoe Ward back in November – while actually discussing her pride in nabbing James Maddison's signature from under the noses of some big clubs.
'Bits of paper were flying all around the country, we completed that deal with one and half minutes to spare – and now, the sense of achievement is massive,' she said. 'We knew James wouldn't be available in the next window. There was talk of Spurs and Liverpool. So sometimes you get a moment and you have take it.
'I hope we're having a similar conversation about Emi Buendia. That was an opportunity we took in January and hopefully we look back and can say that was the right thing to do at the right time.'
Almost a year on from Norwich taking that risk – at a time when the ground was decidedly uneven for Farke's Canaries – Ward's sentiments look so well judged.
WhoScored have Buendia as City's top performer so far this season and 19th best in the entire Championship, while Sky Sports' power rankings have him 23rd and second only to Teemu Pukki.
For something a little more transparent, Buendia's three league goals and five assists – plus four bookings – show just how much of a Championship impact the Argentine Under-20 international has had in his 20 starts to date, plus a trio of appearances from the bench.
To dial it down into something even more straightforward, Buendia effectively won the game for Norwich before half-time on Friday night against Birmingham – with a subtle but significant hand in all three goals, while playing with a dead leg.
If he's that good with just one working leg, I can't wait to see him back with two – which I confidently predict will be against Sheffield United tomorrow.
For the record, Buendia was not in the squad for the August trip to Bramall Lane – City's last away defeat in the Championship.
In fact of the five league games Buendia has missed during City's outstanding season to date, Norwich have lost three. Perhaps most tellingly, they are yet to win a Championship game in which Buendia has not featured.
All this at a time when a supremely talented Portuguese striker, still in good condition and at a good age, with youth development pedigree, international recognition, sizeable transfer fees and 18 months of a good contract left to serve, has had to join a side in the Championship's bottom three to reignite his stalling career.
From here on in, Emi Buendia has a central role in leading Norwich City's promotion charge.
A player who at times appears to lift the Canaries to a level beyond the rest of the Championship – and he may well make that vision a reality, at a price to rival even the free transfer of Teemu Pukki.
Long may the Argentine's huff and puff continue.
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