Ex-Middlesbrough Flop Stuani Shining Brightly in La Liga
Sometimes there are footballers who age like a fine wine, improving their performances with experience, or who achieve their best individual statistics heading into what might traditionally be regarded as the twilight of their careers. That certainly seems to be the case for Uruguayan international forward Cristhian Stuani, who has been the focus of considerable transfer speculation in Spain of late.
The 32-year-old forward has bagged 12 goals in 17 appearances with neighbouring Girona this term, following on from the impressive 21 goals in 33 La Liga outings last season. Such numbers will probably leave Middlesbrough fans scratching their heads at what might have been, given he never really hit top form at the Riverside Stadium, managing just 7 Championship goals and 4 Premier League strikes in two seasons at the club.
Such excellent form with his current club has made Stuani the main man at Girona. Without his goals during the 2017-18 campaign, it’s unlikely that the modest Catalan club would have successfully survived their first ever season in the Spanish top-flight, yet they defied all expectations to finish in a very creditable 10th position.
Despite being regarded as overachievers last term, Girona and Stuani have continued to make positive strides during the 2018-19 season. Competition from the European positions to the relegation zone has been intense during the first half of the campaign, with sides sometimes trading several places in the table on a weekly basis. La Liga betting for the relegation outright market has Girona priced at 8/1 and expected to comfortably survive again, although they still have sights on fighting to finish inside the top six.
For a time during the January transfer window, Girona fans were anxiously waiting with baited breath, due to speculation that neighbouring Barcelona were preparing a January transfer move for Stuani, such was the high regard for his form and scoring record in Spain over the last two season, apparently seeing him as ideal backup for his international colleague, Luis Suárez.
Nevertheless, and much to the relief of Girona supporters, Barcelona eventually signed much-travelled forward Kevin-Prince Boateng on loan from Italian outfit Sassuolo, catching many by surprise. For the foreseeable future at lease, Stuani will continue to delight fans at the compact Montilivi stadium. That is, unless another club decides to stump up the €15 million fee to match his release clause valuation, although it seems unlikely now that another Spanish side would do so.
Along with aiming to finish the season as high as possible, perhaps even amongst the European places whilst competition in La Liga is still very much wide open, Stuani will have his sights on surpassing the 21 goals he scored last season, the highest he’s scored during a top-flight term. If the quality of his form and performances are any indication, there’s every indication that Stuani will exceed last season’s tally quite comfortably, which will inevitably lead to further speculation about his future in the summer.