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5 tackles, 2 dribbles: Impressive WBA departee outshone by Everton-linked winger

Parma fans at Ennio Tardini

Silvestre Varela and Cristian Rodriguez were two bright spots as Parma’s battle against relegation got even tougher.

Back in the summer, Silvestre Varela latched onto a gorgeous Cristiano Ronaldo cross late on against the United States to save Portugal’s chances of reaching the World Cup knockout stage.

The veteran winger’s headed strike at the death left the Iberian nation with a shot at progressing to the round of 16, even after dour displays in their first two group stage games.

It wouldn’t happen. Varela came off the bench at the hour mark to provide a late spark in an eventual 2-1 win over Ghana, but Portugal missed out on goal difference to the USA.

There was disappointment, but Varela turned back to club matters. Somewhat marginalised at Porto, a Premier League adventure was on the cards.

West Bromwich Albion took him on in August on loan. After the Baggies just beat the drop by three points in the season before, new boss Alan Irvine signed the 30-year-old in an effort to stay as far away from the relegation scrap as possible.

What West Brom were getting was an experienced player, one who had scored in both a World Cup and a European Championship, notching 48 goals and 23 assists during his time at Porto.

But the move was ill-fated. Injuries kept Varela shelved almost entirely until December, when he scored his only goal in a West Brom shirt in a 3-2 defeat to QPR.

Irvine’s dismissal and Tony Pulis’ ascent to the helm spelled the end, the Portuguese’s loan deal terminated after just nine appearances and 376 minutes of football.

If Varela thought he had been in a difficult situation at West Brom, he was in for a new challenge in joining Parma on loan in late January.

Rooted to the bottom of the table in Serie A, the Ducali are in utter chaos as the club has been sold twice this season, with players and staff not paid since June.

But the Portuguese appeared up for the fight on Wednesday. In his second Serie A start against Chievo, Varela was one of two bright spots for Roberto Donadoni’s side.

With Parma reduced to 10 men after a half hour, the winger got stuck in and came up with five tackles, performing defensive duties he is unaccustomed to taking on.

Varela added value going forward as well. He led Parma in key passes with two, providing a pair of dribbles and earning praise from La Gazzetta dello Sport [paper edition] for his ideas.

But the pink paper reserved its highest plaudits for another of Parma’s January captures.

Atletico Madrid loanee Cristian Rodriguez arrived alongside Varela last month, landing in Italy despite interest from Everton, as reported by Gianluca Di Marzio.

The Uruguayan had admitted to Embajadores del Gol he was close to moving to the Premier League after the World Cup, and was looking to leave Atletico Madrid with his prospects quite dim there.

Parma managed to muscle their way in ahead of Everton despite all their problems, and based on his display against Chievo will be happy they did.

Rodriguez came up with a key pass and four dribbles, maintaining the element of danger even as Parma were a man down.

La Gazzetta gave glowing review of the Uruguayan’s display, citing his urgency in dire straits, tireless efforts out wide and general tidiness of play.

The situation is indeed dire. For Rodriguez and Varela’s industry, Parma came out on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline and sit 10 points adrift of safety.

If they are to have any chance at achieving the seemingly impossible, the pair will have to keep it up – and make sure their contributions count.

West Brom and Everton can survive without the two, Parma can’t. Little hope exists for the Ducali at this point, but it’s in the form of Varela and Rodriguez if anything.

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