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Sunderland's Vergini belongs among Argentine stars

Sunderland Gates

Santiago Vergini was drafted in by Sunderland boss Gus Poyet on loan back in January and made his first appearance in an easy FA Cup victory over Kidderminster before embarking upon the remainder of the Premier League campaign.

The 26-year-old started out in his favoured position of centre-back, but appeared startled by the speed of the English game and failed to cope during Sunderland's 4-1 mauling at the hands of Arsenal in late February at the Emirates.

It all changed for Vergini, however, when he moved into an unfamiliar right-back position in mid-April, which led to a string of outstanding performances from the Argentine defender as the Black Cats staved off relegation by the skin of their teeth.

Having returned for a second loan spell this season he again featured at right-back from the outset, prior to a switch back into the centre due to Wes Brown's minor calf injury - and Vergini's form hasn't faltered one bit. He looks calm, assured and comfortable alongside Irish captain John O'Shea, suggesting the South American has found his feet in the Premier League after the best part of nine months here.

What's more, the ex-Estudiantes stopper enjoyed a recall to the national team for Argentina's recent Far East double-header against arch-rivals Brazil and Hong Kong. The call was fully justified following several excellent displays at club level and Vergini deservedly received his second international cap - two years on from his debut - when playing the entire 90 minutes for his country during the 7-0 drubbing of the hosts in a friendly at the Hong Kong Stadium.

Vergini's involvement within the Argentine set-up capped a remarkable turnaround from the sticky start he suffered at the Stadium of Light and training alongside superstars such as Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero will do the player no harm at all in terms of his ongoing development at the highest level.

Despite his being a name far less illustrious than many of his peers in the Argentina team, the former Verona and Newell’s Old Boys star should certainly feel right at home among his famous countrymen. He's proved to be highly capable in both defensive roles undertaken at Sunderland and is doing well enough to keep out former Manchester United stalwart Brown, who'd been doing a fine job prior to his injury lay-off.

Vergini's touch, balance, technique and passing ability mark him out as one of the better imports from South America to have come over to these shores in quite some time. Where the likes of Nacho Scocco failed miserably during an ill-fated spell at Sunderland, others such as Julio Arca and Emerson Thome have flourished in the past. Undoubtedly, Santi Vergini fits perfectly into the latter section having adapted superbly to the pace, power and pressurised nature of the Premier League following an admittedly concerning first few weeks at the club.

To have recovered so valiantly without losing too much confidence, then proceeding to claim back a spot in the Argentine national squad after missing out on a World Cup call-up, shows the elegant central defender possesses all of the physical and mental attributes to succeed in England over the long-term.

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