Paddy Davitt: Emi Buendia and his quest to join the Premier League elite
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Inside the corridors of Carrow Road they thought Norwich City marvel Emi Buendia was worth £40m before a ball was even kicked in the Premier League. That looks cheap now.
Buendia had his mid-season dip, precipitated by some horrendous errors in possession punished ruthlessly in those home defeats against Aston Villa and Watford.
It is to the 23-year-old's credit he took his medicine, accepted his demotion from the City starting line up, and roared back with a level of performance that underlined this is a Premier League-grade performer.
His display in a losing effort at home to Wolves, prior to Christmas, was breathtaking.
The touch, the balance, the poise. The willingness to accept responsibility and lead the charge against a seriously-good top flight outfit deserved so much more than it got.
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The accolades on a personal level have started to stack up. Player-of-the-month awards for his club, Premier League player-of-the-month nominations, and in recent days inclusion in a team-of-the-month for January drawn from right across the top five European leagues.
To see Buendia in a midfield occupied by Brazilian superstar Neymar in front of a back four marshalled by Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk and spearheaded by the global icon that is Cristiano Ronaldo prompted a double take.
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This might be the stuff of fantasy but it nevertheless illustrates the Argentine's growing reputation, and the scale of some of his numbers. But only some of them.
To have mustered seven Premier League assists in a team propping up the rest this far into the campaign is remarkable.
To be really fair to Buendia he is being short-changed in that regard, given the recent struggles of Teemu Pukki in open play despite the regular supply line served up by the man from Mar del Plata.
To see only Kevin De Bruyne, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino ahead of him in the pecking order is a far more accurate guide than sharing a social media post alongside the game's biggest names.
But there is one glaring omission.
One statistic so cold and so unappealing it jars with the technical grace and raw talent Buendia possesses. It may also be the one thing the elite clubs in the land will reserve judgement, should this summer see Norwich back in the Championship and Buendia firmly in demand.
De Bruyne has seven Premier League goals to go with the same number of assists. Dele Alli has seven top flight goals and Aston Villa's attacking talisman Jack Grealish seven as well.
Buendia is yet to open his account. In six seasons of professional football he has mustered 17 league goals; last season's eight the best tally he has ever managed.
Even Farke in recent weeks has urged him to add that final element; that missing link which allied to the rest of his productivity marks him out as a hot property.
Comparisons with the likes of De Bruyne, given his relative youth and inexperience and the vastly different objectives propelling Manchester City and Norwich City, are grossly unfair on Buendia.
But that is the company he now keeps, and if he is to fulfil his unlimited potential beyond a breakthrough spell in Norfolk he needs to add such refinement to his game to take the final step.
There are aspects of his character, the occasional petulant flourishes and frustrations, that with time and greater maturity he will shed.
But it would aid his cause, and by definition his club's survival prospects, if he could address what looks an anomaly for any who have watched him cut a swathe through the Championship and raise his profile in the Premier League.
The fluidity Farke affords his creative players behind Pukki suggests this is less about any restrictive demands placed on him.
Todd Cantwell has the same brief and found no problem in embellishing his work in open play with a six-goal league haul; those well-timed late bursts into the box and the cool, composed finishes lighting up a debut tour of the big time.
Unlock that and £40m in the mad, inflated world of Premier League transfer spending could prove a snip.