Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Importance of Being Idol

Loyalty is a term that, without grace, has fallen out of the game. Back in the sixties, it was common practice to see the cult-heroes remain as one-team men. These days, you can announce on national television that you'd never move to your arch rivals, only to expect those fans to forgive you two years later for making the move regardless (Nevertheless, I'm sure their careers benefited from it. How are Milton Keynes doing, anyway?). Such a term can be loosely thrown about and quickly replaced with clich├ęs regarding eggs on faces. Only a select few in the modern game deserve to be referred to as loyal. Luciano Becchio fits firmly within those select few.

Seventy one goals and almost a second century of games ago, Luciano Becchio's long term future in English football was in the balance. The Argentine had impressed in United's Irish tour of 2008, though not to an extent which had Gary McAllister begging for his signature. On the last game of the tour, Gary was still debating whether or not to extend Luciano's stint at the club. A routine post-match interview turned into a frenzy; The Scot confirmed that Becchio's fate was to be decided in the following half hour. Of course, an agreement was met to sign Luciano on a full-time basis. And of course, nobody could predict how important the decision in that half-hour period would turn out to be.

Four years on, and Luciano Becchio is recognised as the face of Leeds United. Whilst other firm favourites have gone on to pasture new (singular, they're all at Norwich), the Argentine striker has kept his focus solely on Leeds United and the task at hand. His efforts both on and off the pitch have won the hearts of many in the rafters; Not only has he proven his credentials time and time again on the field, he has never fluttered his eyelashes at another club.
Coveted for his goalscoring ability and willingness to put himself about, Luciano is a traditional secondary striker. Used primarily as a target man, his technique can sometimes be lacking (his first touch often coming into question from his doubters). He hasn't stayed shy from moments of brilliance, though. Anyone doubting whether or not Luciano has the raw talent to score beautiful goals should dig into the archives for his tremendous volley away to Middlesbrough, a sublime finish from a move started and finished by Luciano himself.

Regardless of doubt; His ability to find the net, win an aerial battle or draw a foul from an opposing defender more than makes up for any shortcomings in his game. With seventy one goals so far in Leeds United white, it's perfectly conceivable that Becchio will be the next striker to reach a century of goals at Elland Road. At twenty eight years, his prime is within reach for the next couple of seasons. No more fitting tribute would be on offer than for Becchio to reach the ton after his service and relentless passion for Leeds United.

It is those aspects that caught the eye of Neil Warnock, who back in February pin-pointed Luciano as a pivotal piece in his plan to get Leeds United promoted. The former QPR boss spoke of how he'd previously tried to sign the Argentine on countless occasions. Now that he finally has his man, he has become the forefront of attacking intent in his re-built squad. The admiration and support from a manager with seven promotions to his name should not be noted lightly. Further still, the backing and admiration from the stands for Becchio is there for all to see (if you haven't heard, he cost less than a certain Mr. Berbatov, and scores more frequently, too).

And it's the unanimous backing that makes Luciano such a pivotal figure within the squad. He is a man to look towards for inspiration, for drive and for passion. Even when his doubters piled on the pressure, his focus remained constant. Despite two poor injuries (the first coming in our promotion season; Taking him until late November to break into the side - The latter during last pre-season), Luciano has managed to break double figures in each of his past four seasons. With 149 starts to his name, he is close to one goal for every two starts at Leeds. It's incredible to even consider that he has his doubters.

The likes of Robert Snodgrass, though hard to argue with, created a saga with their futures. In the midst of Leeds' emergence following the depths of League One, only Luciano has remained sure in his desire to play for Leeds and talked the talk by keeping his loyalties at Elland Road. The opportunities for Becchio to join the crowd of exodus were prominent. In January, Hull came in with an offer deemed acceptable by the board and boss Simon Grayson. The decision lie solely at Luci's feet. At the time, rumours were rife regarding a fall out between Becchio and strike-partner Ross McCormack. The proof is in the pudding, though. Both Luciano and Ross remain at the club. Rumours are to be taken with a fistful of salt, nevermind a pinch. 

And that partnership is finally ready to blossom. Nothing but mere glimpses of the pair together were witnessed in Ross' first season at Elland Road. The preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, along with an early season injury to McCormack, dictated the pairs early fate. Impressions of the pair together acted as signs of promise, though nothing more. The following season saw Luciano struck down by injury, leaving the pair little time together to settle and gel. 

Two seasons on, and the pair now lead the line for United and have started clinically. Whilst Luciano has took the headlines with four goals in as many games, McCormack's involvement should not be disregarded. Two assists from the Scot have aided Luciano's impressive start to the season. On their day, it's hard to see another duo as threatening. It's up to them to continue to make it their day.