James Noble remembers Sebastián Coates’ time as a Liverpool player, and ponders why the Uruguayan – now club captain and a serial trophy winner with Sporting CP – didn’t make more of his time at Anfield.
Sebastián Coates’ Liverpool career had one immense – and appropriately high – highlight but, over the course of three seasons and 24 appearances for the Merseysiders, he was never truly able to establish himself at Anfield prior to a brief spell at Sunderland and a successful ongoing stint at Portuguese champions Sporting Lisbon, who he now captains.
This feels like a scenario that emphasises the value of moments.
Born in Montevideo on October 7, 1990, after coming through at local club Nacional, Coates never truly hit the levels hoped for when he joined Liverpool for £4.9m in the summer of 2011, aged 20.
Already, he was coming off the back of being named the Best Young Player of the Tournament as his country won that year’s Copa America.
He would make just 12 appearances in each of 2011/12 and 2012/13 as the likes of Martin Škrtel, Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher were generally preferred by first Kenny Dalglish and then Brendan Rodgers.
A knee injury sustained on international duty in August 2013 saw him miss the entirety of 2013/14 before he made a loan move to Wearside early in the following campaign, which became permanent a year later.
Even considering his relatively limited impact, he will always be remembered for that volleyed goal at Queens Park Rangers on March 21, 2012.
One of only two he scored for the club, it may have put the Merseysiders 1-0 up in a game they conspired to lose 3-2 after Dirk Kuyt doubled their lead but it continues to be remembered immensely fondly.
There is so much to like about it.
There was the surprise element. There was the fact that it provided an emphatic conclusion to what looked to be a fading attack. There was, simply, the quality of it.
In the 54th minute, following a corner, a low Stewart Downing cross-shot was shovelled half-clear by Bobby Zamora. Coates watched it all the way and, as the ball dropped towards him 15 yards out, he propelled himself to meet it a good five feet off the ground.
He didn’t half meet it.
His right-footed, scissor-kicked volley flew over the head of Paddy Kenny and high into the net in front of a jubilant – and, likely, pleasantly surprised – away end at Loftus Road.
That he struck it virtually straight down the middle simply served to emphasise the power of the effort.
It was close to Kenny – the dumbstruck goalkeeper just didn’t have a chance to react.
This was a clear a marker as any of the technical attributes of the centre-back. Unfortunately, though, it was one of few memorable moments for him.
Strong competition at the heart of the Reds’ defence meant that that trip to West London was one of only 11 appearances that followed his debut as a substitute in a 4-0 loss at Spurs on September 18, 2011.
He headed home his second and final goal for the club on September 20, 2012 – giving Rodgers’ team a 3-2 lead in a thrilling 5-3 Europa League success at BSC Young Boys.
That season, though, would be another of only 12 appearances before that knee injury – suffered in a friendly against Japan – denied him a look-in during the 2013/14 title challenge season.
Jamie Carragher may have retired but the arrivals of Kolo Touré and Mamadou Sakho in the summer of 2013, followed by that of Dejan Lovren a year later, meant a path to a starting spot felt difficult to plot.
He made the understandable loan switch to Sunderland at the end of 2014’s summer transfer window before the move became permanent – for £2.5 million – a little under a year later.
After starting 14 Premier League games in the first half of 2015/16, Sam Allardyce – who replaced Dick Advocaat in October – opted to send the Uruguayan on loan to Sporting in January.
Come February 2017, this was another move that became permanent. And it has proved a pleasingly positive one for Coates.
In the time since, he has become a stalwart at the centre of their defence and was named club captain during the second half of the 2019/20 campaign.
He has six trophies to his name in Lisbon too.
Those include four domestic cup triumphs and, most recently, the Portuguese Super Cup – which was won after he led the club to their first Primeira Liga title since 2002 earlier this year.
Generally stationed at the centre of Ruben Amorim’s back three, the now 31-year-old continues to be a key presence for club and country – for whom he now has 41 caps.
It feels like he is finally in a position to fulfil the potential he possessed – but was never able to fully utilise – at Anfield.
He has, as it turns out, come a long way since that astounding scissor-kick – even if it remains the moment that so many Liverpool supporters remember him for.
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