Emiliano Buendia couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction to English football.
On signing for Norwich City in the summer of 2018 from Getafe for what now seems like a negligent £1.5m the technically gifted midfielder tore into the Championship with creative relish. The 22-year-old Argentine looked on so many occasions like a world-beater; a whole level above his peers and by the season’s end the Canaries were crowned champions while Buendia boasted eight goals and 12 assists.
As Daniel Farke’s men prepared for what was widely expected to be a long and challenging campaign among the big boys, those attuned to the little magician’s charms tipped him to become a stand-out star while those previously unaware of his talents Googled and YouTubed and were impressed with what they saw.
Amongst all of this anticipation, however, a very pertinent question lurked: could Buendia replicate his output in an infinitely tougher league, against infinitely better players, and in a side destined to struggle?
It took just the opening five games to get an answer and it was definitive. As Norwich embarked on a rollercoaster of results that included two raucous five-goal thrillers Buendia continued where he left off. He passed. He schemed. He dribbled and delighted. In those five games he carved out four assists, becoming the first Premier League newbie to do so since Eden Hazard in 2012.
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A few months later as his team went down to Wolves he was matching the Belgian’s lofty standards again, creating nine chances and nine take-ons; the only player to post such numbers in a single Premier League game since Hazard achieved the feat in 2003/04.
In that same month of December, Buendia was responsible for 29 chances conjured up for a team fighting relegation. It is the most inside of a month since Opta started recording such data.
All told, to this point a player bought for relative peanuts, who was on loan at Cultural Leonesa in the Spanish third tier as recently as 2018, has provided seven assists in 23 league games; is second only to Kevin De Bruyne for key passes per game, and has accrued an overall 81.7% pass success rate. If last season was a highly satisfactory introduction this time out has been one hell of a second act and on a much larger stage.
Yet for all of the former Real Madrid trainee’s brilliance, Norwich remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with the possibility of dragging themselves from danger looking more remote with every passing weekend. Might this mean one of the league’s most extravagant and consistent performers will be lost again to the Championship? We have only just fallen in love with him.
There is thankfully hope yet, though it will be of very little consolation to his club because according to The Athletic, Liverpool have a long-standing interest in the star with an imminent move feasible.
This presents a manner of exciting scenarios not least Buendia becoming a Philippe Coutinho replacement the Reds have coveted even with all their recent success. Under Klopp too, it is conceivable the Argentine’s ceiling might be nudged up that little bit higher still. For Liverpool, the prospect of the top flight’s assist prince feeding Mane and co; dancing and dribbling and delighting is a truly invigorating one.
It is hoped that Norwich stay up this term as they offer so much joy, entertainment and creativity. And whether it’s in East Anglia or on Merseyside the same can certainly be said also of Buendia.