Feb 10 (Reuters) - Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi looks set to steal a march on his country’s World Cup squad by arriving at their Belo Horizonte tournament base in Brazil four months before the finals.
Otamendi is moving from Valencia in a loan deal to join Ronaldinho’s South American club champions Atletico Mineiro whose Cidade do Galo training complex will be Argentina’s headquarters for the June 12-July 13 tournament, the Argentine sports daily Ole (www.ole.com.ar) reported on Monday.
The former Velez Sarsfield and Porto centre back has been included in Atletico’s list of players for their defence of the Libertadores Cup posted on their website (www.atletico.com.ar) although the Brazilian club have yet to confirm his signing.
Former Barcelona, Chelsea and Portugal midfielder Deco, now an agent, was involved in Otamendi’s move, Ole added.
Valencia bought Otamendi from Porto during the January transfer window but have filled their quota of foreign players for the rest of the season.
A member of Diego Maradona’s 2010 World Cup squad in South Africa, where Argentina lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals, Otamendi has a good chance of being picked by national team coach Alejandro Sabella for the Brazil tournament.
Otamendi scored the first goal of the Sabella era from a Lionel Messi corner in a 1-0 victory over Venezuela in a friendly in Kolkatta in September 2011.
He was dropped after Argentina’s first two South American World Cup qualifiers in October 2011 but was impressive in a 2-0 friendly win over Bosnia, Argentina’s first opponents at this year’s World Cup, in the U.S. city of St Louis last November.
Argentina, looking for a third world title, will also face Iran and Nigeria in Group F. (Writing by Rex Gowar in London)