Argentina has been a constant breeding ground for young, talented footballers over the years. Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and many others are the highlights of these talent acquisitions. All these players were picked up young by their respective clubs and now have become the stars and superstars of the game. There are in fact, many high-profile names from the country that play on the highest level in Europe. Exequiel Palacios is one such name that is grabbing attention.
¡La Selección Argentina empató 2-2 contra la Selección de Colombia!
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_es) June 9, 2021
FootTheBall is on a quest to find out the likely names that are waiting to boom. We are here to inform you of some of the players that teams should “Buy Before They Boom”. Copa America will prove to be an effective marker for these players to showcase their abilities. Bayer Leverkusen’s Exequiel Palacios is all ready to take the world by storm. Will he help Argentina and Messi win a Copa America? Let’s find out more about the player.
WHO IS EXEQUIEL PALACIOS?
Exequiel Alejandro Palacios is a midfielder for Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. At just twenty-two years of age, he has made a name for himself in Argentina. Lionel Scaloni, the Argentinian manager was impressed by the player’s performance and gave him a national team debut in September 2018. He also made the list for the World Cup qualifiers and might feature in the upcoming Copa America.
Exequiel Palacios: Has made more accurate passes (785) than any other player in the Argentine Superliga this season https://t.co/hu18B9140c
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 16, 2019
Palacios started his journey as a football player with the Argentinean side River Plate. In the 2018/19 season, the player started to evolve and established himself in the team. He made thirty-six appearances that season, scoring four goals and seven assists. In January 2020, he was scouted up by Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.
The midfielder joined the club on a five-year deal. In November 2020, the player suffered a spinal injury and was sidelined for a prolonged period. The injury cost him the chance of representing Argentina while also cutting down his game time at the club level. He has now seemed to regain fitness and is once again back on the National side.
Palacios is just twenty years of age. He was one of the influential players in River Plate and his ticket to Germany was his reward. Bayer Leverkusen identified the versatility of the player and brought him as a future replacement for their ageing star Charles Aránguiz. Many at Bayer have made a strong argument for the similarity of the two South Americans and the word is that he is a like for like replacement.
Exequiel Palacios 🇦🇷💥 pic.twitter.com/q0xWvT8j9s
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) June 9, 2021
The midfielder cannot be pinned down in a particular role in the centre of the park. He is an excellent ball-playing midfielder who can occupy any position in the central areas. Although he was often deployed as a central midfielder, in River Plate, he has shown that he can play in any position, from a defensive midfield role to that of a traditional playmaker.
Bayer Leverkusen on the other hand has deployed the player as a central midfielder who occupies a defensive role. Leverkusen often fields a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-2-1 formation. In both cases, the two central midfielders act as a double pivot in the formation. The main function of this role is to dictate the tempo and to provide efficient transitions. The defensive cover that is provided is also a major requirement of the role.
Palacios made just nine appearances for the club this season. Partly due to injury and partly due to the better form of the more experienced players. However, in all the games he has played, the player has revealed bits and pieces of what he is capable of. The player averaged nearly sixty-five passes per game with an accuracy of eighty-six percentage. A pointer to the ability the player possesses. Although his dribbles are nowhere near the desired level, his role and playing style can excuse him from the stat. Palacios necessarily does not need to make the runs, rather, he is the one who tries to set the runs. The good thing though, he is just twenty-two and has plenty of time to improve.
The midfielder is also an aggressive presser and works tirelessly to win the ball back. He averages nearly 24 pressing actions per ninety and engages in at least fourteen duels. His lack of physical ability and strength is made up for by his tenacity and work ethic.
The Argentinian was part of a highly revered counter-attacking team in River Plate. A team that was renowned for its ability to make line-breaking passes through the vertical channels. The main instigator of such passes was none other than Palacios. His vision to find teammates and the ability to make such passes was an important asset to the team. Palacios excelled at the role and was one of the most influential players in the team.
🦶 Exequiel Palacios made 10 tackles in Bayer Leverkusen's 3-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday; No player has made more in a Bundesliga match this season pic.twitter.com/ONrW9UVO43
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 25, 2021
At Bayer Leverkusen though, the system is much different. Leverkusen is a possession heavy side. They like to keep the ball and make the opposition players do the running. Quick transitions, although used, aren’t the norm. To fit into a rather polar system should have been a huge task for your average player. Not for Palacios though. The player has understood his role and plays true to it.
The player’s understanding of the game is excellent. He knows what his coach desires of him and plays to suit the role. Hence, he is able to play in a variety of positions. Although he is hungry for the ball, he isn’t selfish about it. The player helps keep the ball in circulation and is key to finding the right outlet. His versatility and understanding are perhaps a rather more important tool than his ability.
PREDICTIONS FOR COPA AMERICA
Palacios made the roaster for Copa America in what turned out to be a surprise decision. The midfielder was reportedly ruled out of Copa America when he suffered an injury in mid-May. In what seems like a miracle, the player has regained fitness in nearly half the time expected to re-join the La Albiceleste.
Lionel Scaloni was keen on including the player in his plans and has shown the same diligence now as well. Although Palacios might not feature in as many games as he would like, there could still be few opportunities that may come his way. The key would be to make use of these opportunities. With the likes of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in front, his job would be much easier. However, the defensive side of his game would need to be top-notch if he is to help Argentina win the title.
IDEAL LANDING SPOT
Palacio is an ambitious player; his performances and attitude reflect his aspirations. The player made the following comment upon his move to Bayer Leverkusen
“That’s one of the reasons why I decided to come here. I know that Bayer gives me the basis of taking the next step and that the big clubs are keeping an eye on the players from Bayer.”- Palacios told Kicker.
It is evident from his comments that the player wishes to move to one of the biggest clubs in Europe. He has not been able to find his consistency due to the list of fatal injuries that have come his way. The player would be keen on finding his feet once again this Copa.
If he does so, there could be potential scouts that might keep an eye on him. Teams Like Real Madrid and Barcelona could sweep the player in the near future as a potential replacement for one of their many ageing stars. Premier League teams like Manchester United and Arsenal could also be an ideal location. The player has not yet bloomed and this might just be the ideal time to spot a bargain.