NORTH EAST UNITED HAVE SECURED a young, slick, creative, cool-headed attacking powerhouse in Nicolás Vélez. The 25-year-old Argentinian striker has been playing for Singapore club Warriors FC since early 2014, and will join the NEUFC squad after concluding his current club's 2015 S-League campaign.
A graduate of the River Plate academy, Nicolás got his first team debut in 2010 at Argentine Primera Division club Atlético Huracán, coming on for 26 minutes in a league game. However, he struggled to get minutes under his belt as his club led a campaign that ended in relegation. After two seasons at Huracán he joined 3rd tier side Atlético Sanluqueño. But his struggle to make it to the field continued and he sought a transfer overseas.
He joined Warriors FC in in 2014 and immediately stood out with his pace, ball control, finishing and keen, level-headed gameplay in pressure situations, especially inside the opponent's box. His hat-trick against Albirex Niigata kept Warriors in the title-race, and ultimately they came out on top. He scored 21 goals in 26 appearances in the league, and won the S-League Young Player of the Year award. He helped Warriors start the 2015 season with a Charity Shield win, and his successful stint in the S-League continues to keep Warriors at the top of the league table as we speak. So far he has turned out in 47 matches for Warriors, scoring 29 crucial goals.
In July 2015, Vélez turned out for Singapore XI at the Barclays Asia Trophy. His performances against Everton, Stoke City and Arsenal earned him plaudits from around the world, with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger calling his spell an "electric performance."
His addition brings some pacy firepower to the NorthEast United attacking line-up which, paired up with the seasoned, physical presence of Diomansy Kamara and Simão Sabrosa, makes for a lethal combination.
NEUFC head coach César Farías welcomed Nicolás to the team, saying,
“I am very happy to add this piece to the puzzle because he is very fast and has a great technique with the ball while attacking. He possesses characteristics similar to players such as Alexis Sanchez. He has improved remarkably over the past year and we all know that he can score.”
The player himself is excited about playing in the ISL, saying he cannot wait to arrive in India and learn more about its culture. He was also excited about playing alongside some of the well-known names in the game,
“It is a challenge and a great opportunity for me to play in a League with a lot of great players and legends of the game. It is also an honour to have an exceptional player like Simão as a team-mate and I hope I will learn a great deal from him and that things will go our way.”
Warriors end their S-League campaign on 21st November, following which Vélez will join NEUFC midway through their season. But with the ISL having an intense schedule, introducing a fresh, fast and skillful pair of legs in the business end of the tournament can prove to be a masterstroke. It is also an effective insurance against against injury problems, which ailed several ISL teams last year. With the John Abraham-owned franchise pushing hard for a place in the playoffs this season, the arrival of Nicolás Vélez can become the deciding factor in their success.