He might not get the credit he deserves, but Cristhian Stuani has been solid player for Middlesbrough over the past couple of seasons and has become an important player in the set up.
They say three’s a crowd, and Stuani must understand the meaning of the phrase better than most given his current roles.
If you are unable to catch Stuani’s performances live you will have struggled from the post-match reactions to know whether he had even taken part.
This is not the first time the Uruguayan striker has failed to receive appropriate credit, but maybe that will always be the case when the others in his tridents are usually Negredo, Suarez, Cavani etc.
Maybe the spotlight doesn’t shine so brightly on Stuani because he is cast aside (so to speak) to the unfamiliar role of wide-attacker by his coaches, or the relatively poor return of four Premiership goals and no assists this term.
However, those numbers mask the greater contribution the ex-Espanyol frontman provides and would be crucial if Boro are to make a serious assault on the Championship, now that relegation appears inevitable.
In the last five matches Middlesbrough have tasted defeat twice, both when Stuani did not appear – against Bournemouth and Arsenal – A coincidence?
Just as against Sunderland on Wednesday evening and Burnley before them, it is his experience and physicality, so attuned to the mentality of the Boro of the last two seasons, that appears to make the team a tougher proposition for opponents.
Like during the hard-fought contest with the Mackems at the Riverside Stadium, Stuani is always willing to receive the ball and try to provide the link between midfield and central striker – a position he no doubt craves himself.
The Uruguayan was the hero against Sunderland earlier in the season, scoring Boro’s only goal from outside the box this season, and was also seen making last-ditch tackles inside his own penalty area.
However, a strong character, who left Espanyol deciding the playing-style (and position) was not for him, will surely not want to play second-fiddle – let alone third – for too much longer.
His continued dedication to the Boro cause, rather than shuffle around the club muttering under-his-breath disapproval over his switch in role, is exactly what a team fighting relegation, or promotion for that matter, need for success.
If Stuani and his more celebrated teammates keep up performances next season, he could well end the season on a two-time promotion winner and may even receive the credit he so deserves.