Name: Daniel Ayala
Height: 6ft 3
Date of Birth: 7th Nov 1990
Place of Birth: Seville
Big things are expected of Liverpool’s young Spanish defender Daniel Ayala. The highly sought-after centre-back arrived at Anfield only before the 2007/08 season after spending 7 years at Sevilla. Like all youngsters coming through the ranks of Spanish teams at the moment, Rafa Benitez and Jose Segura have been eagled eyed in selecting the cream of the crop coming through and Ayala was snatched out of the finger tips of the Seville club before he was allowed to sign a professional contract with them at the age of 18. Like Dani Pacheco, Liverpool had to pay a good deal of compensation to the Spanish club to get their man but Ayala’s talent seems worth the trouble for any red tape the Anfield club had to go through.
Preceding his time on Merseyside, he had had already played for Spain’s U-17 side and he is now looking to break into the first team at Anfield. During his first year at the club, at the age of 18, he split his time between the reserves and the academy and assisted both teams to great success. He helped Gary Ablett’s reserve side to the reserve league title in 2008 and also played an important role in taking Liverpool to the FA Youth Cup final last season. Ayala was hampered in the final by a leg injury but still managed to play in both legs. The Merseysiders lost the final to Arsenal but Ayala’s efforts during the whole cup run indicated there was a great talent waiting to be realised.
During the 2008/09 campaign, Ayala also cemented his place in the Liverpool reserve side and has impressed Rafa Benitez enough to be part of the first team squad. He made his senior debut against Tottenham Hotspur this season in August, coming on for an injured Martin Skrtel in a 2-1 defeat. Due to the lack of fit central defenders in the side and with Sotirios Kyrgiakos not quire settled after just being bought from AEK Athens, Benitez decided to give Ayala his first start in the Premier League against Stoke.
He was pretty nervous on his senior debut, but with experience players around him like Carragher, Mascherano and Gerrard, he settled into the game. He was always sure to pass the ball short and square during the match, to ensure he didn’t make a mistake and he did not venture across the halfway line but he played his part in a 4-0 victory over the Potters. Rafa Benitez praised Ayala after the game:
Ayala is young and it was more or less his first official game. He was a little bit nervous but in the end he was very good. He has to work, have more games and experience.
The Liverpool boss believed that playing 90 minutes alongside the likes of Jamie Carragher will only benefit his game, and it surely will. At 6ft 3, he is very good in the air and he is assured with the ball at his feet. Currently he is vying with fellow Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly for the next young star to break into the first team at the back. Ayala certainly has ambitions to break into the team and is excited about his first team opportunities this season:
I can’t believe how quickly a first team chance has happened for me. I know I have to keep working hard and do my best in every training session but making my first team debut this season has made me very proud.
Now 19, Ayala does have a tremendous future ahead of him, and he recently signed a three year contract extension back in November to keep him at the club to June 2012. We may just see a little bit more of this Spanish defender in the years to come.