Sold cheap by Liverpool, 15 goals in 17 games last season, now a free agent...


Welcome to the intriguing case of former Liverpool player Sebastian Leto.

Not all players leave Liverpool and end up Champions League winners like Javier Mascherano. They don't have the luxury of being tempted away from the club by Barcelona, and if they aren't wanted at Anfield have to try and make career paths for themselves elsewhere.

One of these was Argentine attacker Sebastian Leto, who has enjoyed real success abroad but is currently undergoing a rather difficult moment in his career - more later.

Leto was signed by the Reds back in 2007 for £1.8 million having impressed back in his homeland for Lanus, a club once coached by former Valencia and Inter Milan boss Hector Cuper.

His spell at Anfield unfortunately never really got going thanks to a protracted work permit saga, much to the anger of boss Rafa Benitez.

This meant he was not allowed to play in the Premier League, although the club did manage to give him appearances in the Champions League and League Cup, four in total, against Marseille, Toulouse, Reading and Cardiff, all wins apart from a 1-0 loss to Marseille.

The following summer Leto was again not permitted a work permit, prompting Benitez to say: "I am disappointed and it was a surprise because this is a player who has played in the Champions League. You have managers talking about how good he is, so I think the system needs to change."

The Spanish boss effectively had two choices, keep Leto in the reserves or send him on loan abroad, and went for the latter option.

Left winger Leto was packed off to Olympiakos in Greece for the season and managed to get 33 appearances under his belt, with two goals and the experience was a positive one - he ended the season as a champion as Olympiakos finished top of the Greek Superleague by two points.

His loan spell had Greek clubs queuing up to sign him, and with Liverpool able to make a profit on a player who Benitez had by this point decided he could do without, they sold him for £3 million, with the owners keen to get him off their wage bill.

But he didn't end up at Olympiakos, no he signed with their rivals Panathaniakos instead, and it would yield instant results.

Leto scored two goals on his league debut for the club in a 3-0 win over Ergotolis, days after he had netted against Atletico Madrid in a Champions League qualifier, but they would fall short over the two legs against the Spaniards.

It turned out to be another title winning season as Leto helped Panathaniakos win the 2009/10 Superleague, their first title triumph in six years. He netted six league goals along the way and provided five assists, a more than useful return.

The next year was less successful. He was unable to stop Olympiakos recapturing their crown, scoring just one goal and picking up 10 bookings along the way.

And then last season something magical happened, even if it would not last.

Leto was moved from the wing to play up front by former Porto boss Jesualdo Ferreira, and it transformed his fortunes.

He got off to a flier netting in each of his first three games, and by January he had scored in an astounding 15 in 17 games to fire Panathinaikos top of the table. To add to it he provided nine assists, becoming the most devastating player in the league.

Then disaster struck, Leto suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury, which he is still trying to shake off.

His injury is seen as the principle reason behind Panathinaikos' title challenge faltering, they were top of the table beforehand, allowing Olympiakos to retain their crown.

A year on Leto has still not recovered, and was a luxury the Greek club could not afford. Due to the financial ills in Greek society and football, Panathinaikos could not afford to have Leto injured as one of their highest earners on the wage bill with little prospect of immediate recovery.

This January the decision was made, a year after his injury, to terminate his contract by mutual consent.

The club issued a statement which read: "

Panathinaikos announces the termination by mutual consent of its agreement with Sebastian Leto. We hope 'Seba' will return to action as quickly as possible and that he fully recovers from the serious injury problems which have affected him so much personally as well as the team.

"His talent, his contribution to the team, his passion and the bond he formed with the fans has earned him a special place in the history and the heart of the club."

As it stands Leto remains committed to rehabiliating his injury and has returned to Argentina to do so, but is currently a free agent. The objective is to recover in time for the summer and win a contract.

If he can show clubs he is capable of the blistering form he showed prior to his injury at Panathinaikos he shouldn't have a problem. It came just at the wrong time as the form he was displaying was the type which would have made Europe's bigger sides sit up and notice and win him a move elsewhere - Now he effectively has to start from scratch.

It's real shame as he undoubtedly has real talent, which makes it even more frustrating that Liverpool were denied a chance to really harness it, and gave up on him so quickly.

image: © jorge-11

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