‘A creative player with the fighting heart of a defensive midfielder,’ is how Ezequiel Gonzalez is described by Edguardo Bauza, his coach for the past few years at Argentinian side Rosario Central.
A move to Fiorentina may have been at the back of the midfielder’s mind in recent weeks, but this did not affect his commitment to his hometown club. In fact, Gonzalez gave his all as Rosario strove to lift the Libertadores Cup for the first time.
With his strength on the ball, balance and neat touch, the 21-year-old ‘Equi’ can be very difficult to dispossess – as Cobreloa found to their cost.
It was away to the Chileans in the second round that Gonzalez scored what was a strong candidate for the goal of the tournament, tangoing through the defence like a taller, right-footed Maradona.
The goal, five minutes from time, gave the Argentinians a vital 3-2 lead in the tie which proved enough to put them through to the next round after they drew the return game 1-1.
The team then defied their poor domestic form – they finished bottom of the closing championship table – by reaching the semi-finals of the Libertadores, with Gonzalez a permanent fixture in the Rosario line-up.
But while he proved he can be dangerous in front of goal – his flighted free-kicks are a particular threat – Gonzalez makes many more goals than he scores.
He loves to find space on the left of midfield, giving him the option of either cutting in towards goal or curling a cross off either foot.
The bad news for Rosario’s strikers is that Gonzalez is now taking his skills across the Atlantic. The move to Fiorentina will also be a wrench for the midfielder.
‘I’m a Centralfan,’ he says, ‘from a family of Central fans. For me I would stay with the club for my entire career. But I’m going to Italy because it’s a big step up in financial terms.’
The adaptation to Italian football will not be easy, with space harder to find in Serie A.
But Gonzalez is strong in possession, and if his heart is in it, he can become every bit as central to Fiorentina’s play as he was with Rosario.
Club Fiorentina (Ita)
Previous club Rosario Central
Born July 10, 1980, in Rosario