Solano tonic for Viana - 03/04/2003
Nolberto Solano is confident Hugo Viana will mature into one of the classiest central midfielders in Europe, despite the latest injury to beset the talented youngster.
Newcastle's Peruvian winger returned from international duty this week and was dismayed to discover Viana had suffered a recurrence of a shoulder injury.
And in an effort to raise his colleague's spirits - Portuguese international Viana looks set to be ruled out for the rest of the season - Solano insisted: "Hugo will become a very important player for Newcastle United. In the next three or four years he will emerge as one of the best central midfielders in Europe.
"He is a great player on the ball and has a touch that most players would die for. That's why Sir Bobby Robson paid so much for him. Hugo already looks like a great player for the future and will play a key role in the success this club is going to enjoy."
Newcastle supporters have yet to see the best of Europe's current Young Player of the Year and it now seems likely they will be forced to wait until next season. The former Sporting Lisbon favourite has shown flashes of brilliance during his rare starts in a black-and-white shirt but has rarely been afforded the luxury of playing in his favoured central midfield berth.
Solano accepts a change of role has hindered Viana's progress so far but added: "People should not forget that he is only 20 and there's a vast difference between the Portuguese league and the Premiership. The pace and style of the football is very different and he has been trying to find his feet this season. He's a great talent but he's still learning."
Viana looked quite capable of holding his own in the middle of the park during pre-season but currently lacks the physical edge and experience required to oust his main rivals for a central role at St James's Park.
Solano added: "Like me, Hugo is not a natural tackler but there's no getting away from the fact that you need to work on that side of your game if you want to become a big player in the Premiership."
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