Goal.com Profile: Luis Antonio Valencia

Is Man Utd's latest signing the man to replace departing superstar 'CR7'?
His full name is Luis Antonio Valencia Mosquera. His nickname is Toño Maravilla. He is Manchester United's latest capture.

Steve Bruce – one of Sir Alex Ferguson's more successful managerial proteges – recently fostered in a productive period in Wigan Athletic's history, before moving onto his new role at Sunderland. However, it was actually Paul Jewell who first brought the impressive Valencia to England at the start of the 2006-07 season – although Bruce was already an admirer and thus delighted to inherit the player. He quickly found his feet on the pitch, despite his youth and the language barrier, helping to keep Wigan in the top-flight.

The Latics started the 08/09 season well and, despite the departures of such big guns as Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey in January, as well as the capitulation of Amr Zaki, finished in a comfortable eleventh place.

Now, though, Bruce is gone and new gaffer Roberto Martinez never really had much of a hope of holding onto his remaining key man, Valencia; the squad has been stripped for spare parts somewhat.

Manchester United were very quick to turn to the winger, who'd been linked with Old Trafford long before Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Real Madrid was a foregone conclusion. In fact, United reportedly had scouts watching him throughout the whole of last season. Real Madrid were also prepared to splash the cash, while Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur had been mentioned at various times.

Valencia was a youth player with Caribe Junior and El Nacional in his Ecuadorian homeland before progressing to the senior team of the latter outfit, a military-owned club. 20 goals in 84 league games across five years saw him established as one of his country's hottest young talents.

Villarreal were the first European side to take the bait, signing him along with Argentine goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa in 2005. His time at El Madrigal was a non-starter, though; the Yellow Submarine gave him just two run-outs during his stay, farming him out first to Recreativo Huelva.

He did, at least, get to play in yellow, for Ecuador, during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where he was one of the most impressive performers on show. In fact, he was in the running for FIFA's young player of the tournament gong alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, who was being berated for his part in the sending off of England's Wayne Rooney. The hosts' Lukas Podolski was the youngster crowned in the end.

Still, Valencia had shown an immense amount of promise and signed for Wigan on loan, staying for a season and a half before the Latics made his deal permanent in January 2008.

In May 2008, Valencia scored an impressive double to down Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park. Interestingly, one of his most impressive performances came against United at Old Trafford; in January 2009 he ran riot on the right, earning plaudits despite an eventual 1-0 defeat.

Despite all this promise – and the timing of the transfer – one would have to work very hard to dub the now 23-year-old a direct replacement for CR7. For a start, comparing anyone to the last Ballon d'Or winner is folly. More crucial, though, is the fact that Valencia is simply not a born goalscorer, unlike the Portuguese powerhouse.

Still, many have high hopes that Valencia's capture can at least help to ease the burden of Ronaldo's departure, even if he doesn't turn out to be the heir apparent. He's direct, very quick and a fine dribbler, although for better or worse he lacks some of Cristiano's patented on-the-ball razzmatazz.

Even so, Valencia's physical stature will mean that United still have a tangible presence on the right. He's built solidly enough and stands a shade under 6ft tall – just a tad smaller than the departing Ronaldo. Former gaffer Bruce, though, previously outlined some more aspects of his game to get excited about, for those not familiar with his style of play.

"He has pace, trickery, he is as strong as an ox and has a great work ethic," he said after securing said permanent deal. More recently, he gushed, "Valencia is a dying breed: he's direct, quick and goes past players; he has the ability to dribble. He has an exceptional future."

Sounds great on paper, yet he's not everyone's cup of tea. He's a real source of energy and, with Wigan, he was able to pick up the ball and take the pressure off his own rearguard by giving back-pedalling defenders a headache, drawing them like flies to a lantern and creating gaps elsewhere. He'll hit the byline with alarming frequency, too. Still, at £16 million he's no bargain and a tangible end product will be expected at the Theatre of Dreams. Seven goals in 83 Wigan appearances won't whet too many appetites.

Subsequently, although more attacking signings could yet be made this summer, Valencia may provide balance more than anything else, with Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov forming a more obvious striking partnership. That's for Ferguson to decide in the coming weeks and months.

For the time being, Valencia has passed his initial tests. Signing for United despite interest from Madrid – before Cristiano has even left the building – is a good first impression. Furthermore, his mature first utterances are sure to inspire confidence in Fergie's judgement.

"It was Paul Jewell who first took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to play in England," Valencia said. "Chris Hutchings and Steve Bruce helped me to progress and it is a shame I won't get the chance to work with Roberto, because he is a great young manager and I'm sure his style of football would have suited me.

"I am happy that the club has benefited from the move financially, because I owe them such a lot. I just hope the fans at Wigan can understand that I am an ambitious guy."

It's just as well he is, because pie-in-the-sky daydreams are cast-iron expectations for Manchester United.

Greg Ptolomey, Goal.com