‘One to watch in 2010’ – Daniel Ayala

When Liverpool went and brought Daniel Ayala from Sevilla in 2007 it was on the basis that, in time, he would turn in to a complete player. He is a highly rated central defender and should Jamie Carragher leave Anfield this summer, as it has been mentioned by the player himself as a scant possibility, then it could be Ayala’s time to deliver after Liverpool have seen brief glimpses of what he has to offer this season.

The club’s fans will remember that Ayala featured at the very beginning of this season, when he came on as a substitute in the opening day defeat at Tottenham, and then started the next league game, which was a 4-0 victory over Stoke at Anfield. Having been with Liverpool since the 2007-08 season, Ayala was heavily involved with the reserves team that won the league in that campaign. He has since climbed the ladder and with a taste of first-team experience, Ayala’s goal should be to force his way in to the side in time for the start of next season, but unlike the start of this season, he will hope that when August comes around he is a first choice. The Spanish youngster clearly wants to build on his appearances for Liverpool and seems eager for more. He said: “I can’t believe how quickly a first team chance has happened for me. I know I have to keep working hard and do my best in every training session but making my first team debut this season has made me very proud.”

The 19-year-old signed a three year contract extension this season which means he will be at the club until June 2012. After establishing himself in the youth and reserve set-up at Liverpool, the contract extension will be a great boost for what Rafa Benitez thinks of him, and should signal that he is closer to becoming a part of Liverpool’s defence. After seeing his progress somewhat stall during the 2008-09 season mainly due to injuries and suspension, then he has done well to feature at senior level three times this season.

Liverpool fans may not have seen as much of Ayala as they might have wanted to since his last appearance, a defeat at Fulham, because Benitez would have preferred experienced players at the time so the youngster has dropped back in to the reserves to continue his development.

Liverpool first-team coach, Mauricio Pellegrino, has urged youngsters like Ayala to make the most of their opportunities. He stated: “We never know if they will go on to become first-team regulars, but if these boys are here it’s because they have the qualities and characteristics to be good footballers and be in the Liverpool squad. The life of a young player can change in one month. You have to be ready in every moment because you never know when your moment will come.”

Ayala has a decent height for a defender, at 6ft 3in, and is said to be good in the air along with possessing the physicality needed to be able to defend in the Premier League. Ayala should have a grand future ahead of him, and with Liverpool’s defence looking suspect at several times throughout the season, he could find that his chance to shine will come in the near future.

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