Back in November, Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia was asked which Ecuadorian player he thought was ready to make an impact on the Premier League. He answered with “Jefferson Montero” - although you suspect he would have given exactly the same answer had he been asked which player from the entire continent of South America could light up England’s top domestic league.
Many from England caught their first glimpse of the 24-year-old winger during last week’s World Cup warm-up match between Roy Hodgson’s men and Ecuador in Miami. While it was Valencia who stole the headlines for the South American side after lashing out at Raheem Sterling - earning himself a silly red card in the process - scouts from Premier League clubs would have been left licking their lips after watching the lively Montero for 68 minutes.
Hodgson’s decision to try out James Milner in the right-back position seemed particularly misguided considering the left winger he was up against. Montero has the ability to leave any full-back with twisted blood, let alone a makeshift one. And, needless to say, nobody is talking about the possibility of Milner starting against Italy in the right-back position after being run ragged by the Morelia star.
Montero has the ability to become one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup. Ecuador are not expected to pull up too many trees over the next few weeks, but if they do then it’s safe to assume Montero will be one of those responsible.
Manchester United and Arsenal scouts must pay close attention to the diminutive winger at this summer’s showpiece international tournament. Failure to do so could cost them a potential world-class star.
Admittedly, his spell in European football wasn’t exactly spectacular, but then some players develop a little later than others. In fact, Montero’s story - up until the big Premier League move - is strikingly similar to Valencia’s, who of course has established himself as a first-team regular at Old Trafford since joining the Red Devils from Wigan Athletic in 2009. He was even handed the prestigious number seven shirt.
Montero broke into the Ecuador national team before securing a move to Europe with Villarreal - as Valencia had done four years earlier - but failed to make an impact in La Liga, despite being loaned out to Levante and Real Betis. Valencia also failed to shine in Spain, either with Villarreal or Recreativo.
It wasn’t until he arrived in the Premier League where his talents really began to shine bright. He was a little older, a little wiser, and his impressive performances earned him a dream move to Manchester United.
There’s no way Montero should be playing in the Mexican league. He’s good enough for Europe and good enough to make an impact in the Champions League. And while Manchester United may have dropped out of Europe’s premier club competition, Montero is a player who can help them get back in at the first attempt.
But, in order to stand any chance of making that dream a reality, he must perform in Brazil - starting on Sunday against Switzerland.