Why You'll Like Him
Aside from the fact that he has an tragic personal story (his brother was kidnapped and murdered in an attempt to get at some of Palacios' believed wealth), he's the kind of player that does all the little things that help teams win. Plus, rooting for guys like this can make you feel superior to your less knowledgeable friends.
Why You'll Hate Him
He's kinda boring. Your job is not to appreciate little things like meaningless passes in the middle of the field. You deserve to be entertained and players like Palacios only exist to allow your soccer-phile friends the chance to feel superior to you.
Every team needs someone who's going to do the unexciting things that help teams win. Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that said player is also your best player, I'm not so sure.
Palacios can be relied upon for many things, but none of that is really in the offensive third. The last time he scored a goal in any kind of match was last August against Hull City.
Palacios still brings plenty to the table, though. He's an aggressive defender in the middle of the field, making fearless tackles and clogging up opponents' passing lanes. He might not get a lot of the glory, but he's doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that allows his teammates to shine.
Without his contributions, it's hard to imagine tiny, impoverished Honduras advancing to the World Cup for the first time since 1982.
It's also no coincidence that his pro side, Tottenham, showed marked improvement almost immediately after adding him and made the Champions League for the first time in its history in the first full season with his services.
Position: Defensive midfielder
Club Teams: Olimpia (2002-08), Birmingham City (2007-08), Wigan Athletic (2008-09), Tottenham Hotspur (2009-present)
National Team Debut: 2003
World Cup(s): none
Palacios has not exactly been a 'name' player for much of his career. His route to the EPL wasn't nearly as smooth as many other bigger-name Latin American imports, and included a rejection or two.
After starring for Honduran super power Olimpia for the first five years of his career, he took a stab at Europe. He first tried to break in with Serbian side Red Star Belgrade, but didn't stick. He then tried his luck with Ligue 1 side Monaco, but didn't sign there either.
Eventually, he found his way to the EPL's Birmingham City, which was in the midst of being relegated during the 2007-08 season. He mostly came off the bench, but had shown enough to be on his way to signing a longterm contract. Before he could do that, though, he had to return home to Honduras to help deal with his brother's kidnapping.
He came back with Wigan Athletic, another mid- to lower-table EPL side, and established himself as a starting defensive midfielder over the next two seasons and earning a reputation as a hard-nosed and reliable player.
Tottenham took notice and paid about $18 million for his transfer. Palacios' acquisition paid almost immediate dividends, as the Spurs finished the 2008-09 season with 25 points in the 14 games Palacios played, easily avoiding relegation and nearly vaulting into Europa position.
That finish served as the catapult for this season, which saw Tottenham finish in the Top 4 of the EPL, and ahead of Liverpool for the first time since 1971.
Palacios doesn't necessarily have a lot of stats to prove it, but Honduras' improved performance, especially over the last two years, has much to do with their midfielder.
Palacios was instrumental in Honduras earning its first World Cup berth since 1982, beating out Costa Rica on goal-differential for third in CONCACAF qualifying. Palacios nearly led the tiny Central American country to upsets of Mexico (losing 1-0 on a penalty kick) and the U.S. (falling 3-2 after taking a 1-0 lead) in the final round of qualifying before Los Catrachos beat El Salvador to punch its ticket. (They also received a rather large assist from Jonathan Bornstein, whose stoppage time goal against Costa Rica allowed El Salvador to tie their more wealthy neighbors in the hexagonal.)
Palacios, still just 25, is ninth all-time in appearances for the Honduras National Team.
What to Look For
While Honduran teammates David Suazo and Carlos Pavon get most of the glory, Palacios quietly directs his team from the midfield.
He's not flashy and can be hard to notice if you don't know what you're looking for. But, he's really the engine that makes Los Catrachos go. Having him on the pitch is almost like having a fifth defender and gives much more freedom for the other midfielders to play offensive roles. With Tottenham, for instance, Palacios' play essentially allows for someone like Luka Modric -- otherwise a defensive liability -- to be on the field. In a more general sense, his play allows for other players to push forward without jeopardizing the midfield.
He'll be the guy in the middle of the field driving all the really rich guys crazy, making seemingly mundane passes to keep possession and making a clever slide tackle or two in the defensive third. When you learn to appreciate players like him, consider yourself a real football fan.
It's hard to imagine Honduras making it out of group play, but if they do it will likely because Palacios was successful in disrupting the offenses of teams like Spain and Chile -- two of the most potent offenses in the 32-team draw -- and creating enough room for his teammates to score a couple of goals.
Jeremiah Oshan is a creator in his own right, profiling the players likely to star in this summer's World Cup. You can find more of his work at Sounder at Heart, SB Nation's Seattle Sounders FC blog.