The first thing you notice when you see Dani Pacheco play is his height. At 5ft 6in tall it would be hard to think of him as challenging for a first team place at Liverpool when you know of the physicality of defenders in the Premier League. However like David Villa or Carlos Tevez, what he lacks in height, he makes up for with skill and speed of thought. Nicknamed the “killer” due to his deadly finishing, Pacheco is a striker who is equally adept at creating chances for others as scoring goals himself.
It was quite a coup when Rafa Benitez signed the young Spaniard two years ago in the summer of 2007 from Barcelona. It was an achievement that ranked nearly as highly as when Arsene Wenger took Cesc Fabregas from under the Catalan giant’s noses and it was a transfer that continued a trend of youngsters leaving Spain for England. With Spanish footballers unable to sign professionally to clubs until they are 18, star players such as Cesc Fabregas, Gerard Pique, Francisco Merida and Pacheco have all been taken by opportunistic Premier League sides. Liverpool’s chief Spanish scout at the time Eduardo Macia saw enough in the Spanish striker to recommend him to Benitez and the Reds did not take long to make their move. Pacheco’s switch to Anfield deeply upset many at Barca’s youth academy where he had played since he was 15. His youth coach Garcia Pimienta said:
It is a great loss for the club because he is a forward with a lot of quality, he has been our top goal scorer (scoring 30 goals in the previous season) and has already played for the youth team. He is one of the cadets we had the most hope for, but nothing can be done anymore. Everything happened very suddenly.
The Catalans tried to get compensation for the striker but Pacheco still made his way to Melwood. During his two year stay at the club, Pacheco has impressed staff and fans alike, subsequently becoming a regular in Liverpool’s reserve team. He is now on the cusp of the first team, having trained and played with the likes of Gerrard on their tour of the Far East last summer.
What has impressed the Liverpool management greatly is that although he lacks height, his work rate and skill allow him to play the game with ease between the lines. He is the archetypal clever small centre forward, with a superb touch and eye for goal. He has tremendous maturity both technically and mentally meaning he has great vision and positional awareness allowing him to be both creator and finisher of attacking moves. Intelligence in his off the ball movement is central to this ability, allowing him to get into good positions and be aware of team-mates when either playing just off the front as a withdrawn striker, or finding space to get into a position to score a goal.
He is assisted in his play with great ball control which provides him with the ability to run at defenders but combined with this he can pick out a fantastic through ball so as to provide goals for others. The only real concern is his lack of strength and power, he will need to baulk up considerably to be a success in the Premiership but he is nonetheless a good prospect to look out for in coming seasons. Look at the clip below from a recent reserve match where Pacheco was man of the match against Hull in a 4-1 victory: