Buendia's favourite goal of his superb Canaries season
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
He has 14 to choose from but Emi Buendia doesn’t take long to decide when asked which has been his favourite goal for Norwich City this season.
The 24-year-old's scintillating form has seen him named Player of the Season at both the EFL Awards and in the club vote for the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy.
That’s thanks to his impressive improvement in front of goal and with his creative instincts hitting new heights, with a superb 16 assists so far.
It’s his sumptuous volley against Barnsley on January 2 that the Argentine ace selects as his best goal though, darting across the Carrow Road pitch to meet a dropping Kenny McLean pass and thump the ball low into the net.
“If I had to choose one it would probably be against Barnsley. I think the difficulty of the goal was more than the other ones,” Buendia tells us, still beaming with pride after being named as the Championship’s outstanding player.
“The pass of Kenny was long and very, very good, the finish was receiving the ball over my right shoulder and a first-touch finish.
“Also, we win the game with that goal, so that means a lot.”
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The goal in that 1-0 victory exemplifies the campaign that Buendia has been enjoying, with head coach Daniel Farke encouraging him to push further forward and cause problems for opposition defenders.
That has allowed Buendia to demonstrate his abilities with both feet, with some lovely left-footed goals, including during the wins over Brentford, Reading and Stoke.
“I’ve always tried to use my left foot, I don’t feel uncomfortable with it,” he added. “But this season I think the difference was that I shoot more than before.
“That’s the reason I’ve scored more goals and also with my left foot.”
The Mar del Plata maestro’s prolific form earned the divisional award ahead of Brentford’s 29-goal top scorer Ivan Toney and Canaries team-mate Teemu Pukki, a player he has a renowned understanding with.
The Finland star won the Championship award in 2019 and was gracious in defeat. With a smile, Buendia joked: “We were talking a little bit and he said to me that he won two years ago, so now it was my time!”
It is those established relationships which the former Getafe midfielder thinks has played a major role in this season’s promotion success, with players including Tim Krul, Max Aarons, Kenny McLean, Mario Vrancic and Todd Cantwell among the 2019 title winners still part of Farke’s squad.
“Because we are playing together for three years with some players, you know how everyone works,” Buendia continued.
“For example, my connection with Teemu is special. When I have the ball, I just know he is running in behind to get the ball.
“Also with Maxy, together on the right wing. That’s a big connection in football, to make a difference in games.”
Many expected one of the big boys would swoop for Buendia after City’s relegation from the Premier League but with a high valuation, no bids arrived.
The playmaker made it clear in interviews that he intended to be back in the top flight next season and with that secured as a Norwich player, supporters are hoping interest doesn’t lead to the kind of big bids which could persuade City to sell this summer.
“Everyone wants to play in the best league in the world so to be back in the Premier League is amazing for me,” Buendia said, who has spoken warmly of his love for the Canaries when asked about his future in several recent interviews.
“I will keep working a lot to keep going, to do things well, to help the team and also in personal terms to be a success.”
He has also spoken regularly of his hopes to earn a full Argentina call-up one day as well, having scored once in three appearances at the Under-20 World Cup in 2015.
Buendia hasn’t heard anything from the national set-up yet so will keep working towards that goal and trying to mature, having had to shake off the frustration of two harsh red cards during this season, for naïve challenges which were second bookable offences.
His passionate nature and defensive tenacity are a key part of his game though and the Canaries star enjoys that element of football, alongside his attacking talents.
“It’s something that’s in my football since I was young,” he explained. “Obviously I like to score goals and give an assist for team-mates but I also like to help out in defence.
“It’s a good feeling when you get the ball back and can attack again. I enjoy that sometimes I can help the team in this way.”
For now though, full attention is on Saturday's clash with Reading and finishing a superb season in the best possible style, with a win at Carrow Road enough to wrap up the Championship title with one game remaining, regardless of Watford’s result at Brentford.
“The mood is very good in training now, everyone wants to be the champions, it’s something special in football,” Buendia concluded, having scored one and assisted another during last weekend’s 3-1 win at QPR.
“But obviously the intensity in training is still very high because we want to do it this weekend and to lift the trophy as soon as possible is better.
“So we’re really good and ready for this weekend.”