In recent years, we’ve seen the likes of Abou Diaby, Bakary Sako, Carlton Cole and Diafra Sakho come very close to signing with West Bromwich Albion, only for their deals to fall through in the final stages. With hindsight, some of those failed transfers now seem like a blessing, as Albion have dodged a bullet on injury-prone or inconsistent players. However, there is one ‘nearly’ West Brom man - from this summers transfer window - who the Baggies might already be ruing their failure to sign.
Malaga midfielder, Ignacio Camacho, looked set to join West Brom before - as Chairman John Williams alluded to in his post-deadline statement – “footballing reasons” caused Albion to pursue other deals. The Baggies failed to bring in another defensive midfielder meaning their decision to pass up on Camacho was a bold one.
Without new competition for their places, Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher have kept their places in the starting eleven, although recent performances have led to questions over their effectiveness. Sam Field, Craig Gardner and James Morrison provide competition but each have their limitations.
Sam Field looked capable against Middlesbrough and Bournemouth but it is too early for the 18-year-old to play every week in the Premier League. James Morrison will likely fill in for Yacob during the Argentinian’s suspension, however, he is better suited to a more advanced role. While Albion’s utility man, Craig Gardner, would do little to solve Albion’s possession woes.
This lack of depth makes the decision to abandon a deal for Camacho all the more perplexing. Especially since the Spanish midfielder – who has been linked to moves to Tottenham and Liverpool in the past - has many of the attributes that Tony Pulis admires in a player.
Camacho is a well-built and physical player who offers a presence in both boxes. In fact, most of his goals 16 goals for Malaga have been headers, including a spectacular diving header last weekend against CD Legones. Considering how much Pulis values set plays, Camacho would have added to Albion’s aerial threat and chipped in with some goals throughout the season.
The Spaniard is also more dynamic than Albion’s current crop of midfielders. He breaks up play well but also has the ability to carry the ball forward and beat players. This is a quality that is severely lacking Tony Pulis’ side; particularly when they are being pinned back by opposing teams. Camacho is the type of player to win the ball and immediately instigate a counter attack.
Moreover, Camacho has the ability to affect the game higher up the pitch. When Pulis asks him to, Fletcher does a good job of pressing teams higher up the pitch, and this is something that Camacho does brilliantly. Along with his high-pressing interceptions, Camacho has chipped in with two assists for Malaga this season - Yacob and Fletcher don’t have one assist between them.
Albion would have signed a player coming into his footballing prime. He broke into the Athletico Madrid first team at the age of 17 and, in the same year, captained Spain’s U17’s to European Championship win. He moved to Malaga in 2011 and has now played over 175 times for the Boquerones. The 26-year-old also has experience of Champions League football, featuring 10 times during Malaga’s 2012/13 campaign, including the memorable 1-0 win over AC Milan.
Like Nacer Chadli, Camacho is a player who could have significantly raised the quality of West Brom’s starting eleven. But with Albion now looking elsewhere, Camacho will go down as another one of those “what ifs”. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him join another English club in the near future and show the Albion hierarchy exactly what they missed out on.