Over the course of its history, the FIFA Club World Cup has been illuminated by a host of impressive strikers, with the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Romario, Washington and Filippo Inzaghi all leaving their mark on the intercontinental showpiece. However, for this year's South American representatives, Liga de Quito, it is a defensive midfielder not a forward who will be shouldering much of the goalscoring responsibility in Japan.
The man in question is Patricio Urrutia. A versatile 31-year-old, the Ecuadorian international will be tasked not only with pressurising opponents in the middle of the park, but also with popping up announced in the final third to weigh in with his share of goals. And it is a role the player does exceedingly well, as he has proved by scoring 16 times in the Copa Libertadores to become the club's all-time top scorer in the competition. The man they call Pato professes to be as surprised as anyone by his feats of marksmanship: "I never envisaged anything like that, as my position is not typical for a goalscorer. I'm a pretty unusual case," he tells FIFA.com with a smile.
When you hear Urrutia explain his modus operandi, however, it becomes clear his emergence as a goalscorer is no accident. "Being a defensive midfielder, I always arrive unmarked to get on the end of high balls and rebounds. I'd say I've been fortunate with many of my goals." The player's modesty seems a touch excessive given his explosive shooting from medium range, as demonstrated recently for Ecuador against Argentina in the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers. "Playing in an attacking side also helps. We try to play football and win no matter where we are," he adds.
Ambitions with Liga
Asked for his take on the club today, the captain shows himself to be as discerning off the pitch as he is on it. "The directors have worked very hard to make this a big club - everything from building their own ground to providing the great facilities for us to work in. It's a serious and ambitious project, and one that's been carried over onto the pitch. We have a big responsibility to continue in that vein, and that's the frame of mind we'll have in Japan."
Of course, no one is expecting an easy ride in the Land of the Rising Sun. The team would appear to be some way short of their best, and they have also lost several of their top players, including Urrutia's former midfield ally, Enrique Vera. "Yes, we miss him - now I have to run even more," he jokes, before adding on a serious note that "we have quality players here to replace him".
Another to leave the club was winger Joffre Guerron, which begs the question: has the club's form peaked already this year? "I think so," says Urrutia. "We're not at the level we were at [earlier in the year], but bit by bit we're getting back there. We have players coming back from injury and we're going to be a lot stronger."
That team from Manchester
For many, Manchester United are the leading contenders for the title, and Urrutia has the utmost respect for them. "They're a very strong side whose strength is based on individual skills. Their players are match-winners and can really hurt you, but they can also do damage with dead balls," says this fanatical collector of opposition jerseys.
"I've more than 100 shirts now," he says, "and they're nice souvenirs that my kids will always have. This year I managed to swap with someone after almost all our Libertadores games." So would he like to do the same with one of the Manchester United players? "Well, first I'd like to get to the final, but if we did that, yes I'd like to swap with Cristiano Ronaldo. That said, I imagine everyone else would like to do the same," he says laughing.
But don't confuse Urrutia's admiration for the Red Devils with a lack of ambition. The captain, serious again, signs off with a clear warning: "Sometimes, when you lose a game, you're so riled you either forget or don't feel like swapping shirts. Hopefully, that will happen to our opponents and not us in Japan."