NEW signing Jordi Gomez can play the same role at Sunderland as Cesc Fabregas once played at Arsenal, according to ex-Black Cats midfielder Arnau Riera.
Arnau – a Niall Quinn signing who played a couple of games for Sunderland in the 2006-07 season – also played alongside Gomez in the Barcelona B side.
And he believes, just like Fabregas did for the Gunners, the 29-year-old new recruit is the person who can play the killer pass for Sunderland.
“I know Jordi well from playing alongside him at Barca,” said Arnau.
“He’s a very good player who will never stop running and working in midfield.
“He can tackle and deliver set-pieces, but I think his best quality is his creativity – his final pass.
“Jordi can play a killer pass in the same way that Cesc Fabregas or Andres Iniesta do at Barcelona.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s not Fabregas or Iniesta!
“They are special, world-class players.
“But Jordi could play a similar role within the Sunderland team, providing the pass that gets through a defence.”
Gomez progressed through the youth system at the Camp Nou alongside future superstar Lionel Messi, with both getting into the club’s B side, which Arnau captained.
“Jordi came into the team in 2004-05 and Messi played a few games with us that year, but by the next year Leo had already moved up to the first team,” said Arnau.
“Frank Rijkaard was the first team coach at Barca then and the B team played 4-3-3 just like the senior team.
“In the 2005-06 season, I played just in front of the back four, with Jordi and Joan Verdu playing alongside me in midfield, which was a good combination, and it worked well for us.”
Arnau left Barcelona in the summer of 2006, lured to Sunderland by Quinn during the Irishman’s spell as manager-chairman, while Gomez stayed another year at Barca before moving across the city to join Espanyol.
Roberto Martinez signed him twice – initially for Swansea on loan in 2008, and then a year later for Wigan in a £1.7m deal.
The Spaniard helping the Latics win the FA Cup just over a year ago and was also named the club’s Player of the Year in Wigan’s Championship season just gone.
Now he is set for another crack at the top flight and a chance to shine in a team being rebuilt by Gus Poyet which will emphasise the importance of passing and control.
Arnau’s time in England, though, has not been as fruitful as his former team-mate.
He played only two games for the Black Cats before Roy Keane took over and decided he was not his sort of player.
Arnau spent the next two seasons on loan to Southend and Falkirk before returning to Spain and playing for Mallorca before ligament damage forced his retirement.
“It was tough for me in England because I was new to that style of play,” he recalled.
“Jordi doesn’t have that problem though after a successful few years there.
“He knows all about the style of play and the demands it puts on you, and I’m sure he will be a big success at Sunderland.”