LOS PHENOMENOS #2: JEFFERSON MONTERO – Morelia/Ecuador

LosPhenomenos

Andrew Davidson unveils a rising star from each Brazil 2014 squad that is set to grace our TV screens in June – number two is Jefferson Montero of Ecuador.

Montero-Ecuador

AGE:  24   POSITION:  Left Winger/Forward

CAPS:  37   GOALS:  7

CLUB:  Morelia (Mexico)

Ecuador’s squad at this year’s World Cup in Brazil is not full of big name stars, but head coach Reinaldo Rueda will have high hopes for his young, unfancied side.   Drawn in a group with Honduras, Switzerland and Euro-strugglers France, the South American side will see some chance of progression if the coach can get the most out of his talented younger players.

Jefferson Montero (or Jefferson Antonio Montero Vite, to give him his full name) is undoubtedly the brightest of those talents.  Currently plying his trade in Mexico, the 24 year old has spent the vast majority of his formative years in Spain, and can lay claim to scoring a goal in Ecuador’s first (and so far only) international championship win.

That goal came in the final of the 2007 Pan American Games, when Montero notched in a 2-1 victory over Jamaica.  The exposure of helping the young side to the nation’s first ever honours raised Montero’s profile greatly, and led to a move to Villarreal the next season.

It also helped earn him his first senior call-up, for a friendly against Bolivia in 2007, but it wasn’t until the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign that he started to make an impression.  He played a part in a 5-1 victory over Peru, snatched a first goal for his country in a friendly against El Salvador, then notched (again against Peru) to record his first competitive goal.

The player is usually happiest when deployed as an old-fashioned winger – hugging the by-line and causing defenders all sorts of problems.  His size (he stands at about 5’7) belies the tremendous strength he has on the ball, and the quick feet are reminiscent of Alexis Sanchez in his breakthrough years.

Never scared to take on a defender, he is excellent at pulling out a trick or a shimmy at just the right moment, and he has worked hard at improving his balls into the box in recent seasons.  Again like Sanchez, he has benefitted from a move into central positions, cutting in from the wing to take advantage of static defences and get in to better scoring positions himself.

Montero became integral player in Villarreal’s developing B team in his first season with the club, making 32 appearances and scoring 10 times in the Spanish second division.  The following season he made the grade in La Liga, as back-up to Santi Cazorla, and scored one goal while making 9 appearances.

In an effort to learn the top flight ropes better, Montero then found himself on loan at Levante, before finally showing up in June 2011 at Betis under current West Brom manager Pepe Mel.  The Ecuadorian made a big impression on Mel, and played an important part in Betis’ survival from the drop in La Liga.  He notched his one and only goal for the club in a 2-3 loss to Real Madrid.

In summer 2012, with Villarreal in a state of disarray, Montero took his chances by returning across the Atlantic, and joined Monarcas Morelia in Liga MX.  He made a fine debut, gaining two assists and scoring his first goal in a victory over Club America, and just a month later he recorded his first hat-trick at senior level in a 6-0 thrashing of Dorado (a club that he had played for, incidentally, on loan as a youngster).

His club form has helped to maintain his growing influence on the Ecuadorian national team – with teammate Antonio Valencia, of Manchester United, commenting that Montero would be an excellent fit for a Premier League side, and adding that “he is an intelligent player and someone who is improving his football daily”.

The player seems to be coming on in leaps and bounds over the last year, finishing the opening half of the season as an Apertura 2013 Copa winner with Morelia, and scoring two important goals in a 4-2 home win over Paraguay in the 2014 qualifying campaign.

Most impressive of all, for Montero and Ecuador as a team, was his winner in a tense 1-0 home win against highly-ranked Uruguay.  Their South American rivals will travel to the World Cup as a favourite, and Montero’s form against them shows he may just be ready to make it big on the world stage.

AndrewDavidson

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