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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tracked by Barcelona and heading for Liverpool - Jose Enrique is ready to become Spain's new left back

The 25-year-old defender was Joan Capdevila's predecessor at Villarreal and could become the veteran's successor for La Roja as Vicente del Bosque prepares for Euro 2012.

Jose Enrique appears ready for the big time. Cast adrift by coaches early on his career, forced to ply his trade in the lower divisions and then work his way up, the road to the top has been long and at times arduous for Liverpool's prospective new left back, but the move to Merseyside may be just the tonic he needs to take that final step and claim the coveted left back position for his country.

Now 25, the Valencia-born defender began his career at Levante B in Spain's Third Division. Opportunities were few and far between, however, until one day, the player confronted his coach. The reply from boss Jose Luis Oltra was simple: when the left back is sent off, you will get your chance. That happened the following Sunday and it represented the start of something special for the promising player.

After 19 appearances and one goal for Levante, Jose Enrique was snapped up by city rival Valencia, although the youngster endured a prickly relationship with coach Quique Sanchez Flores and failed to make a single appearance at Mestalla.

Loaned to Celta Vigo, the left back was unable to displace former Argentina defender Diego Placente, but still made 14 league appearances and received rave reviews in Galicia, where Joan Capdevila was turning in solid performances week after week at regional rivals Deportivo La Coruna.

Jose Enrique went off to Villarreal and was joined at El Madrigal by Capdevila for a brief period in the summer of 2007. Capdevila had failed to reach agreement with Deportivo and was snapped up by Villarreal on a free transfer. Jose Enrique had enjoyed a fine debut season at the club, though, and many fans were briefly bewildered at the need for two such quality left backs.

Jose Enrique was soon made available, however, and Newcastle beat Liverpool and Manchester City in the race for his signature. "A big offer came in for me," the player explained last year in an interview. "They paid just over 9 million euros for me, which was a million more than Chelsea had paid for Asier del Horno."

Del Horno, signed by Jose Mourinho after coming through the youth ranks and impressing at Athletic Bilbao, was seen as Spain's fullback of the future, but the Basque has since slipped down the ladder and is now at Levante, where Jose Enrique started out.

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