He has been the leading player for one of the most entertaining teams in La Liga during the past two seasons. Players like Viera, Tana and Boateng wouldn’t get half the space and freedom if it weren’t for the small maestro in midfield. While people compared him to the likes of Xavi and Busquets the man with the tucked in shirt and the characteristic moustache continued to dominate the Spanish football stadiums. When he’s now leaving the Iberian Peninsula it’s a huge loss for La Liga. But one man’s death is another man’s bread and Swansea, and Premier League, shall be overwhelmed that Roque Mesa is taking his belongings to Great Britain for playing football. Because even if the British are used to watch Spaniards shine in their league, I can assure you they have never seen anyone like Roque Mesa.
Born and raised at Gran Canaria, he began his footballing career in the local clubs. Valdecasas, Telde and Yoñe were the clubs he played for prior his move to the Spanish mainland and Valencia. In Valencia he got a contract with Levante UD and played for the clubs youth team during two seasons before he was promoted to Levante B to play in the third division. 2010 a soon-to-be 21-year old Roque Mesa moved back to the Canary islands to join one of the big clubs in the area, CD Tenerife. He played for their B team during six months before he left for the other big club on Canary Islands, UD Las Palmas. One season with the B team in the fourth division was enough to impress the leading figures in the club. Before the 11/12 season a 22-year-old Mesa got promoted to the first team which housed in the second division of Spain back then. He ended the season with 22 appearances on his account, where ten was as a starter.
The spell in Las Palmas wasn’t unproblematic. Mesa was sent on loan at the third division club Atletico Baleares followed by regular appearances with Las Palmas B. But in 14/15 it was Roque Mesa’s time to shine. It was the start of what would become a breakthrough in Spanish football.
Roque Mesa was a regular starter and key when Las Palmas gained promotion to La Liga for the first time in 13 years. Two seasons in La Liga later and close to everyone consider Mesa as on of the best midfielders in the league. His FC Barcelona customized style of play made it impossible for people not to draw parallells to renowned players at Barca’s midfield. Voices were raised for a move to the Catalan giants but a move was never imminent. Instead Swansea City pulled the longest straw. A Swansea who ever since Brendan Rodgers joined the club in 2010 always have aimed for a possession filled football. After the same left the club for Liverpool in 2012 the Welsh club have had a hard time to maintain that image. With Paul Clement in charge and the signing of Roque Mesa there’s now huge optimism surrounding the club.
Clement was appointed in January when Swansea was in big trouble, very few people were optimistic about Swansea’s chances of renewed Premier League contract. Clement had other thoughts. He was able to turn the ship around and get it in the right direction. However, it wasn’t until Leon Britton’s re-entry into the starting Xl that the real magic was made. Leon Britton is a player whose style of play is similar to Roque Mesa’s. Britton gave Swansea stability, security and a total of 13 points over the last five games, which was enough to secure the contract.
Swansea’s hopes is that Roque Mesa will bring this stability and composure from the start, because the truth is that there’s only a few players in Europe with his ability of controlling games. He averaged 70.8 games a game during last season, only beaten by Toni Kroos and Steven N’Zonzi. His passing percentage landed on impressive 91.4%, which was fourth best in the league.
An underrated Roque Mesa-trait is his ability to defense. He doesn’t look much to the world but in the small body there’s a huge lung capacity and an understanding of the game of gold. These abilities makes him to a midfielder with great defensive abilities, he’s always one step ahead of his opponents. Mesa doesn’t need to throw himself into excessive duels, he’s too smart. He intercepts plays before the ball even reaches his opponents, not by a crowd-pleasing slide tackle. He simply puts his body between the ball and his opponent to intercept and start an attack for his team. If you check his interception stats they’re not impressive but this is the reason.
After some mediocre years the city on the southern coast of Wales have started to dream about success again. And who can judge them when the man with the moustache who would make Pablo Escobar jealous has arrived to town?
Photo: Denis Doyle/Getty Images