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Press article:

Pep-talk for United star - 19/12/2003

Pep-talk for United star
Tough at the top
   Hugo Viana
   Gary Speed
   Sir Bobby Robson
   Newcastle United

Nolberto Solano has told Hugo Viana he can become one of Sir BobbyRobson's greatest success stories in a black-and-white shirt. But the experienced Peruvian believes Viana may have to make his mark elsewhere before United supporters see the Portuguese playmaker at his creative best.

Solano has offered a shoulder to cry on as his inexperienced team-mate struggles to make an impact during his second year at St James's Park. And although neither player has been guaranteed first team football this season, it is Viana who fears he will lose most with Euro 2004 looming. "Hugo will become a good player for Newcastle, even if it means he has to play somewhere else for a while," explained the former captain of Peru. "Where he wants to make his name, in the centre of midfield, is the hardest position to play in the Premiership. At Newcastle, the competition for those two places is intense. "It is a position where you have to fight like a dog - Gary Speed is a great example - and Hugo has to learn from that. If he does, then he will do a good job."

Both Solano and Viana are preparing for potentially career-defining tournaments this summer with the Newcastle duo set to represent their countries on home soil in June. Peru host next year's Copa America tournament while Portugal welcome the cream of Europe for Euro 2004. And while Solano is guaranteed a place in his country's national side, Viana faces far stiffer competition if he is to win a place alongside Luis Figo and his fellow midfield luminaries. "Even though I don't like it, I don't think that a lack of first team football for Newcastle this season will be a big problem for me next summer," explained Solano. "We don't have too many good players involved in the world's best leagues - maybe only four or five play in Europe - so I think I will still make the Copa America 2004 squad. "It's a slightly different situation with Hugo. He needs to play first team football now because Portugal have a big squad with many midfielders fighting for a place in the national team. "But everyone is in the same position at Newcastle. He is not the only player desperate to start games."

Viana has still to justify the stlg9m fee United paid to Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2002 but is increasingly desperate to prove his worth to the Magpies' support. Popularity within St James's Park is not a problem for a player who became an instant crowd favourite following his arrival on Tyneside as Europe's Young Player of the Year. But Viana is ready to kickstart his career elsewhere despite Robson's reservations that a loan deal would not be in Newcastle's best interests. "I have talked to him about his situation for club and country and tried to explain to him that it is not easy to make an immediate impact in English football," added Solano. "It's the same for every foreign player - it's difficult to adapt. "I was in the same position when I first signed for United. It's a tough league, there are very few breaks and the standard is consistently high."

The Journal

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