Rodrigo Bentancur is a name with which you are going to become very familiar with over the next couple of seasons.
The young Uruguayan midfielder is on the brink of a move to Italian giants Juventus as he looks to tread a path that has been well worn over the years with a number of players having left the shores of Argentina to sample European football in Serie A.
It is part of the natural order of Argentinian football that young players are given their chances. This is in part because squads have a high turnover of playing staff with a constant stream heading over to Europe and in part because there is a lack of financial strength to furnish extravagant spending. These young players tend to breakthrough in to sides that are subsidised by older players who have spent their career in Europe before making the trip back for the twilight of their careers.
This trend towards younger players shows no signs of abating and it is why we saw a 17 year old Uruguayan midfielder make his debut for the giants of Argentinian football Boca Juniors. Rodrigo Bentancur is a very modern midfielder with the capacity to play equally well in the attacking and defensive phases. He originally played for Boca on the right side of the midfield although he is not a traditional winger who will engage in one on one battles to attack the defender on the outside his capacity to move up and down the wide areas and to cross and pass accurately allow him to function in that position.
Juventus are likely to see Bentancur as more of a natural central midfielder with a view to performing the roles recently seen from Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio.
It is likely that despite his precocious talent Bentancur will have to bide his time to break in to the Juventus first team setup with a loan move to another Serie A club likely in the first instance. The likes of Genoa and Sassuolo have pivoted on their strategies recently looking to utilise more young players in their first team squad and both have strong relationships with Juventus having loaned a number of players from Juve in recent seasons. I would expect the Uruguayan midfielder to move to one of these clubs next summer.
What though are Juventus getting in Bentancur?
Contribution in the defensive phase
For a young player Bentancur displays a strong understanding of the defensive side of the game. He has the stamina to move up and down the field at pace without losing his tactical focus or becoming loose in his positioning.
The impressive thing from Bentancur is that when he wins the ball back in the defensive phase he does not become flustered and lose the ball immediately. Instead we tend to see the midfielder win the ball back before driving forwards himself in possession and looking to lead the transition for his team.
As Banfield build their attack down the left hand side of the field and move in to the central areas we see Bentancur begin to track back in the central area of the field.
He is initially poorly positioned and behind the ball but shows a good burst of acceleration coupled with the anticipation to see where the Boca defensive structure is at its most vulnerable. He is able to get back to the edge of the penalty area before executing a perfectly timed sliding tackle to dispossess the Banfield player just before he can pull the trigger and shoot on goal.
For a young player with an inflated profile in the eyes of the media and the watching public it is good to see that Bentancur still works hard to protect his own goal and to help his teammates.
This time Bentancur is representing his country against Colombia.
As the Colombians are building towards the centre of the pitch we see Bentancur this time in a deeper starting position. He doesn’t immediately look to engage on the man in possession or to look to move the defensive block higher as Uruguay tend to prefer to defend from a deep and compact block.
Instead he waits and bides his time. When the man in the centre for Colombia takes a loose touch Bentancur closes the space immediately and dispossesses the Colombian player. Then we see the attacking instincts from Bentancur take over as he drives forward to instigate the attacking movement for his side.
Excellent range of passing
As befits a player most comfortable in the centre of the midfield Bentancur is an excellent passer of the ball with the capacity to go long or short depending on the situation.
Having played initially on the right hand side of the field Bentancur displayed the ability to accurately play diagonal passes either cross field or in to the area with deep crosses becoming something of a speciality. This capacity to pass the ball in this manner translated perfectly when Bentancur moved in to the centre of the field with his range of passing opening up both side of the field as well as allowing the Uruguayan to combine in the final third with short passes and through balls.
Here we see the ease with which Bentancur is able to assess his options on the turn before switching the ball out in to the wide areas.
As he takes possession in the central area of the field there is no pressure on the ball at all and Bentancur has the capacity to read the defensive block before accessing the weak point in the structure with a well played diagonal pass.
Again we see the contribution that Bentancur makes in the defensive phase of the field as he tracks back before taking possession of the loose ball.
Once more we see the Uruguayan midfielder immediately look to transition in to the attacking phase as he drives forward in to the opposition half of the field. As he moved forward and the opposition begin to converge on him we see Bentancur play a well weighted and angled through ball in through the final line of the oppositions defence for the attacker to run on to the ball.
Ability to finish from range or in penalty area
We are likely to see lazy comparisons made to Paul Pogba when Bentancur initially makes the move and there are certain similarities in the way that the two players are able to strike the ball from distance with a power and an accuracy that are uncommon, that however is where the similarities end.
Whist Bentancur is a capable goalscorer he is also capable of scoring a variety of different types of goals with his ability to ghost late in to the box or take possession and strike accurately from distance.
Here facing Bolivia we see Bentancur positioned just outside the penalty area.
As the ball comes out to him he has the composure to take a touch inside instead of just hitting the ball first time. As the space opens up on his first touch though the strike from Bentancur in to the corner of the net is powerful and unerringly accurate.
He has the capacity to produce strikes of this calibre either on his left or right side.
This time the finish from Bentancur comes in the penalty area.
As the ball is played across the oppositions penalty area we see Bentancur peel off from his marker at the back post to meet the ball centrally. Once again we see composure from the young midfielder as he simply guides the ball in to the back of the net as opposed to over striking the ball in an attempt to add more power.
Note that on this occasion the finish is on his more natural right foot.
Whilst it has to be acknowledged that Bentancur has already taken a huge step in his career when he left his native Uruguay at 13 to move to Boca Juniors that step will pale in insignificance to his move to Turin.
The young midfielder will have to be patient as he adjusts to the pace and the schedule of the European game but if he continues to develop and learn at the pace he has done so far then he will go on to have a successful career in Europe.
The signing of Bentancur may signal the acceptance from Juventus that they need to start transitioning their squad in to a younger unit with an eye on the future. That they have chosen to ‘spend’ on of their non EU slots on the youngster is testament to the regard in which he is held in Turin.