Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Things I Know About Luis Jimenez

Chief executive Scott Duxbury was last night locked in talks aimed at completing the signing of the Chilean forward Luis Jimenez. Writing in today's Telegraph, Jason Burt insists terms for the deal, which could initially involve a loan with an option to buy, have been agreed and an announcement is expected to be made later this week. If successful, he will be the first of several signings by West Ham United this summer as manager Gianfranco Zola overhauls his squad having released up to 10 players. Despite amassing 20 caps Jimenez has not played the requisite number of international matches recently to automatically qualify for a work permit. But, as revealed yesterday, West Ham have been given assurance that an application would be successful.

Burt states Jimenez has been tracked by West Ham’s technical director Gianluca Nani for some time and claims that Nani and Zola, along with Duxbury, will use their Italian links for further signings. Jimenez was also of interest to Tottenham Hotspur after being told by Inter coach Jose Mourinho that he could seek a move. So what do we know about the mercurial Chilean, known as 'El Mago' ("The Wizard") in his homeland and as 'Jimegol' by the Inter fans?

Born June 17, 1984 in Santiago, Chile, Luis Antonio Jiménez Garces was a largely unheralded talent before moving to Italian Serie B at the age of 18 to further his footballing education at Ternana Calcio, where he played from 2002 to 2005. It did not take long for his abilities to shine in less than salubrious surroundings and several teams, including Juventus, Inter and Arsenal were soon monitoring his progress closely. Despite a prohibitive price-tag on his head, Jiménez finally made the move to Serie A when joining ACF Fiorentina in a joint co-ownership deal in the January 2006 transfer window. He went on to appear 19 times for his new club during that campaign, scoring 3 goals in the process from his adopted position on the right side of midfield. At the end of the season he out-polled David Pizarro to be named Chilean Footballer of the Year.

In late June 2006, Ternana re-purchased the rights to the player from Fiorentina. Since the club were set to spend the 2006-07 season in the third tier of Italian football it was only ever likely to be a short-term arrangement. By the following January an accord was reached with Lazio, catapulting Jimenez back into Serie A, with an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the loan. The move was to be worth an eventual 11 million Euros. On January 27 the Chilean played his first Serie A match for Lazio against Palermo and went on to make a big impact. When the time came to make the deal permanent Ternana suddenly changed their demands, levying new terms (which included Lazio paying the salary for four of Ternana's players) which could not be met. A furious Jiménez was returned to his parent club but vowed never to play for them again. He implored FIFA to intervene and annul his contract, citing the team's unfair treatment.

On July 15, 2007, the impasse was breached when Jimenez went back out on loan for a third time, this time with Roberto Mancini's Inter Milan. He scored his first Inter goal in the Champions League against Fenerbache and was rewarded with his first Inter Serie A start in early December against Fiorentina, where he scored the opening goal. It was followed by another start in the subsequent match against Lazio, where he set up Maicon's goal and had a goal disallowed offside, and set up another disallowed goal. Jimenez was now alternating between right wing and a role as a withdrawn striker, the latter arguably his more effective position as it utilizes his innate flair, superior technique and natural attacking instincts.

By the start of the following season, Inter had officially signed him on a co-ownership deal. Under new coach Mourinho, Jimenez played his first game against A.S. Roma coming on as a second half substitute and scoring a penalty in Inter's Italian Supercup win. Jimenez played his first game of the 2008-09 Serie A year against Sampdoria on August 30, 2008, but was unfortunate to pick up an injury in a practice session that curtailed his progress. He later returned from injury on November 30, 2008 when he was subbed in Inter Milan's Serie A game against Napoli. Although Inter won the Scudetto last term, 24-year-old Jimenez was hardly a contributing factor to the team’s success. Persistant niggling injuries and the presence of both Luis Figo and Dejan Stanković had afforded him only fitful opportunities to establish himself. The Chile international played just six games without once completing a full 90 minutes.

A disillusioned Jimenez revealed he had offers to leave Inter Milan in January. "I asked to leave in the winter - I had several offers and big clubs came forward," Jimenez lamented in La Gazzetta dello Sport. "However, Inter said that they needed me and a transfer was out of the question. I was amazed and the situation has deteriorated still further since then. I can't come to terms with what is happening and I can't see a good reason for it. I feel good and I even discussed things with Jose Mourinho recently and that left me optimistic, but I obviously misunderstood what he was saying. I thought I would be brought back into the team, but I wasn't even in the Coppa Italia squad. Sometimes I feel like a ghost in training and I don't want to spend another season like this. I need confidence and I need to play. I can’t allow myself to go through another season like this. I will ponder my choice carefully."

Jimenez made his international debut on April 28, 2004, in a match against Peru. In June the following year, Jiménez assisted Marcelo Salas' historic 35th goal with the national team (with this goal Salas became Chile's exclusive top scorer). The goal came in a qualification match against Bolivia which Chile went on to win 3-1. Four days later, he scored twice against Venezuela in another qualification match. Jiménez became captain of Chile during 2006. However, mainly due to injury, he has seen little subsequent national team activity under the direction of Marcelo Bielsa.

At 6ft and blessed with good pace, unimaginable skill and insightful passing ability, Jimenez has all the salient attributes to play on the biggest stage and yet doubts surrounding his physical frailty, combustible temperament and susceptibility to off-field distractions have left many to question whether that undoubted potential will ever be fulfilled. It is a sad fact that he has failed to play more than 20 matches in any of his last six seasons, while late last year Jimenez hit the headlines for attacking fellow Chilean international Mauricio Pinilla in a Santiago nightclub during their respective Christmas breaks. It was sparked by rumours in the South American press a year earlier that Pinilla had slept with Jimenez’s wife, model Maria Jose Lopez, whilst the Inter midfielder was in Jamaica on international duty. Jimenez reportedly accosted his love rival with a blunt instrument after Pinilla refused to heed warnings to stay away from the venue. After receiving several blows to the head, Pinilla was admitted to hospital with a head trauma and neck injuries.

Local reporters were live on the scene and reported on the incident as the parties exited the nightclub. They chased down Pinilla’s car barking "is it true you got hit?" After finally getting the footballer to acknowledge them, Pinilla responded by simply pointing to his cheek before making the “crazy” sign, turning his finger on his temple. The paparazzi then tracked down the woman at the centre of the fight, Maria Jose Lopez. Running after Lopez as she was trying to speed away in the car, the paparazzi shouted "is it true you cried in the toilet?" With the model not answering the female reporter opened the driver’s door on the moving vehicle, forcing Lopez to slow down and allowing the photographers to get their money shot. So, one thing is for sure. If West Ham United are successful in bringing El Mago to the capital then we will all be in for some fun times ahead.

And that, dear reader, is everything I know about Luis Jimenez.


Chris said...

Nail...meet head. Great profile. I really wonder how he will perform in a more tenacious league. Sounds like Franco's got some work to do.

Trilby said...

I heard an Italian football expert on the radio today liken Jimenez to a slightly lesser version of Carlos Tevez. I choose to think of him as a lot better version of David Di Michele.

Mo said...

If that is the money shot in question, then she has a very big car.


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