Whenever Sporting Kansas City signs another player, fans are eager to learn what he is like, what he can do, what position he will play and how he ended up in Kansas City. We all start scouring the web for more info, reading wiki pages, watching highlight videos and even looking up their rating on FIFA.
In the case of Cristian Lobato, there are far better sources of information than Wikipedia. First is Sporting KC’s Manager Peter Vermes who has had his eye on Lobato for a while before finally signing him.
The second source is his former and now current teammate, Ilie Sanchez. The two were both at Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy at the same time and later both returned to play for FC Barcelona’s B team.
With Lobato’s visa approved, he has arrived in Kansas City and is ready to start training with his new team as they come off of their Gold Cup break this week. So this is a good time to see what Vermes and Ilie can tell us about Lobato and what can be expected of Sporting KC’s newest addition.
Why Kansas City?
Of course Lobato consulted with Ilie before signing with Sporting KC, but what did they talk about?
“I talked to him in the last days (before he signed),” Ilie said. “He started to ask me about not the league, not the club, but about coach, about teammates, facilities and he is ready to come. He is excited and really wants to come here, especially here.”
Ilie’s presence in Kansas City probably did not hurt but was not the reason for Lobato choosing to sign with Sporting KC. “I am here but I am not the reason,” Ilie wanted to make clear. “He was playing in Nastic in Spain and he wants to make a change in his career. He wants to try this experience. He understands and likes all that I say to him about the way we play and the way the coach wants the training, all of these kinds of stuff. He is excited to come and me too.”
Ilie did not try to convince him to come to Kansas City, he just gave his honest opinion and let Lobato decide. “When you try to give advice to other teammates, to other players to come here you have to be really calm. It is his career so I don’t want to influence him to come here because I don’t know what is going on in the future. Maybe it can work and maybe it cannot work. I do not want to be responsible for good or bad things.”
“I just told him my experience here, obviously it is very good so far,” Ilie continued. “I just told him that we have all of the facilities here including teammates, coach, training grounds to be a professional and to make our profession a 100% success.”
The lure of Children’s Mercy Park
In telling Lobato about Sporting Kansas City it sounds like Ilie’s description of the atmosphere in Children’s Mercy Park was a major attraction. “If you are smart when you sign for a new club you want to know everything in the sport way. The city is important, people are important but of course the best thing we have here is our stadium and our environment in the stadium. Of course I tell him what happens in our stadium every time we play at home. This year we didn’t lose at home yet so he knows these things.”
“When we play on the road, after the game we change our mind and start thinking about the next game at home. It’s difficult to explain but it’s a good feeling to know the next game at home is going to be full of people; these people are going to be cheering us. It’s amazing,” Ilie continued.
How long before he sees playing time?
Historically it takes new players, especially foreign players a while to get up to speed with the team and the league when they join Sporting KC in midseason but Vermes thought Lobato might adapt quickly.
“Because he comes from a place that plays very similarly to the way that we play, from that point of view it will be a lot easier. His acclimation should be a lot easier,” Vermes explained.
“Learning the league and all those other things is just another piece but I think character wise and that sort of stuff he is going to fit in to the team really, really well so it shouldn’t be that difficult,” Vermes added. “He’s a really good guy, a team guy. He has a lot of core values already that we look for in people. From that perspective he comes in a little different, he is 28 years old and that is a big difference also, he’s not 20.”
Will he make an impact this year?
Will he start? Will he compete for a starting spot or just be depth and what position?
“We will have to see when he gets here. It’s hard for me to say until he is here and training with us every day. I don’t know that yet, it’s not me couching it, I just don’t know,” Vermes admitted.
While Vermes would not commit to how much or when Lobato would play, he did not bring him in to just hang out in Kansas City. “We aren’t bringing him to just be on the team,” Vermes stated. “We are bringing him in to make a contribution and we will see how fast it is.”
Lobato, three players in one
Vermes loves for players to be flexible in where they play and it looks like that is one of the features he liked about Lobato. “He’s a player we were looking at that can play multiple positions, five positions. He can play left back, both attacking midfielders and both wingers. Add in the fact that he is 28 years old and ready to start the prime of his career, he was a good person to add in at this time of the year.”
Ilie touted Lobato’s versatility as well. “He is a left foot, he can play many positions in our system, the 4-3-3. He played with me in Spain and played this system. Of course with left foot, he can play left back and left winger but he also likes to play right wing and to come with his left foot.”
“He can also play in the middle, midfielder,” Ilie continued. “So with signing Lobato you are signing three players in one. You can use him in many positions; it is an advantage for him and for the team.”
Whatever position he plays, what makes Lobato a good player when he is on the field? “He can change his rhythm, with the ball he can take away the opponent with a simple touch,” Ilie replied. “For him it is easy to play facing the goal or not facing the goal, he has a lot of different ways to play.”
“He can score. It is not his best quality but in the right moment he can score for sure. Not like me. More goals than me,” Ilie added while laughing.
“Be patient with Lobato, he is a really good player,” Ilie added.