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As the Uruguayan defensive prodigy moves closer to a switch, Goal.com traces the meteoric rise of Coates - up to a medal-winning turn in the 2011 Copa America

COMMENT
By Daniel Edwards

A quick look at the fresh-faced features of Sebastian Coates, topped by a mop of curly blonde hair somewhat distinctive in his native Uruguay, gives away his tender years almost immediately.

The Nacional defender is still a month shy away from celebrating his 21st birthday, making him a mere baby in a world of grizzled and wily centre-backs.

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All the reports suggest he is fast, good in the air, and able to pick
a pass, and that is music to fans' ears.

With the likeable but limited Sotirios Kyrgiakos now departed, it
looked like Liverpool would be gearing for the season with Jamie
Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel as the options at centre
back.

Carragher is a legend, and has been a brilliant servant for Liverpool,
but he's 33 now and doesn't represent the future. Coates, at 20,
hopefully does.

Agger is a brilliant footballing centre half but cannot be relied on
injury-wise, while Skrtel is error prone and not the best when it
comes to bringing the ball out from the back.


Martin Kelly could switch to the centre long term, but Coates, by all
accounts, is a cut above.

This is yet more evidence that Liverpool are ambitious and have the
right owners in charge. A strong top four challenge looks more likely
by the day.

The signing of Coates is great news for Liverpool and patches up the
one obvious remaining weakness in the squad.

As he inches ever closer to a move across the Atlantic Ocean, however, Liverpool fans need hold no reservations over Coates' maturity or readiness for the Premier League. Because as soon as he takes the field, the blonde bombshell betrays his youth with an astonishing talent for the darker arts of defence that could belong to a man 10 years his senior.

Everything about this Scottish-descended Uruguayan - English commentators take note, in the Spanish world his most Anglo of surnames is pronounced Kwatez - screams prodigy.

Sebastian was a first-team regular with Nacional at the age of just 18, making his debut against Bella Vista in a performance so assured that he earned himself the man-of-the-match award from Montevideo sports bible Ovacion.

His first goal was to come just a week later, ironically against Liverpool of Montevideo to salvage a 1-1 draw for his team.

Just two months later he was doing the lap of honour around the Estadio Centenario as the Bolso lifted the 2008-09 Primera championship, and he has never looked back since as an integral part of one of Uruguay's traditional giants.

The first thing that marks out Coates as something special is his immense height. He stands at almost 6'6", dwarfing most centre forwards and making him a fearsome prospect in the air both at the back and at attacking set pieces. If you think, though, that this implies a certain lack of panache on the deck, you could not be more misguided.

The youngster is wonderfully adept at bringing the ball out from the back, and an impressive positional awareness means that more often than not he can relieve his opposite number of poessession with elegant grace.

Having wowed Nacional fans for the past two years, the stage was then set for Sebastian to announce himself to the rest of South America in 2011.

He was one of the surprise inclusions in Oscar Tabarez's squad for the recent Copa America, but after forcing his way into the first-team during the group stages thanks to Mauricio Victorino's injury the kid, so the cliche goes, never looked back.


Super Celeste | Coates and Uruguay celebrate their historic Copa triumph back in July

He formed a formidable partnership with captain Diego Lugano, 10 years his senior, which was undoubtedly one of the key factors in the Celeste lifting the title for the 15th time at River Plate's Estadio Monumental.

GOAL.COM'S COPA AMERICA PLAYER RATINGS: SEBASTIAN COATES

VS
"A secure performance at the back. Didn't make any mistakes, but he wasn't spectacular" 6.0
VS
"Was solid in the back, especially on set pieces. Cleared the ball well while remaining poised" 6.0
VS
"Had one or two interesting physical tussles with Guerrero, in which he did well to come out on top" 6.5
VS

"Complemented Lugano's rugged approach with cerebral defending" 6.5
His talent was never in doubt, but the Copa proved that this young man had the temperament and maturity to fit in with the best of the continent. He was a rock at the back in the cauldron atmosphere of a quarter-final in the 'Elephant's Graveyard' of Santa Fe, doing all he could to shackle Messi and co. and ensuring Uruguay reached an ultimately successful penalty conclusion against hosts Argentina. The real turning point, however, was to come in the semi against surprise package Peru.

The Inca's direct counter-attacks through Paolo Guerrero had caused problems to sides throughout the tournament, but no other defence handled the long-haired No. 9 with as much applomb as Lugano and his apprentice. And if the hostility had previously come from the stands, this time Coates had to overcome it on the field; he received a brutal elbow in the face from Juan Manuel Arango and barely flinched, keeping his cool to assure a 2-0 victory and a place in the showpiece fixture.

It was no surprise when he was awarded the Young Player of the Tournament award, and his international future looks extremely bright as Uruguay prepare for the 2014 World Cup.

Despite the £7 million transfer fee speculated for his signature, which will be a Nacional record, Coates will most likely have to bide his time at Anfield. Sotirios Kyrgiakos has gone to Wolfsburg, but Agger, Skrtel and Carragher represent formidable barriers to the Uruguayan joining his compatriot - and fellow alumnus of the Nacional academy - Luis Suarez in the first-team just yet.

If his career so far is any indication, however, Coates will not have to wait too long to get his chance.

A prodigy and one of the most accomplished young defenders in world football, the 20-year-old proved first with Nacional and then with Uruguay that once he is put in the starting line-up, it is extremely difficult, not to mention ill-judged, to contemplate taking him out again.

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