The Portuguese league, for its entirety, has been dominated by three teams, Porto, Benfica, and Sporting CP. In fact, their grasp on the league has been so strong that in its 89-year history, only two teams (Belenenses in 1945-46 and Boavista in 2000-01) have won the league apart from the three aforementioned teams. And this is why these three teams generated the best talent in football. Among these, one name has been at his brilliant best. Manuel Ugarte may be only 22 but has already raked up 75 appearances in Portugal’s top flight.
The defensive midfielder has become an integral part of Sporting CP for two seasons now and was on the transfer wishlist of many clubs. Ugarte’s rise is not new and has been years in the making, with many experts pointing him as a future star. However, it is one thing to have talent and quite another to go and fulfil it, which is what Uparte has done.
So, who is Manuel Ugarte, and how good is he?
How good is Manuel Ugarte?
Manuel Ugarte Ribeiro was born on April 11, 2001 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Ugarte started his football journey at a local club before Centro Atletico Fenix, one of the most popular teams in the second division of Uruguayan football. Here, Ugarte would develop as one of the best young players across South America.
The midfielder’s rise at the club was nothing short of amazing, as he was promoted to the first team at the age of 15. His debut came on December 4, 2016, against Danubio FC. For the next three years, he would slowly become an integral part of the team, even captaining them at 18 years old.
And just like any well-performing young footballer in South America, Ugarte came under the scouting network of one of the Portuguese clubs, Famalicao. So the club moved swiftly to sign him in December 2020.
Signed on a five-year contract extension, the player took no time adjusting to the new league. In his first month at the club, he would make his debut and in the second would score his first goal. After that, he would become an integral part of the team playing 20 games, including a good run of games where they won 21 points in their last 12 games, narrowly missing out on the Conference League qualification places.
This performance was more than enough evidence for Sporting CP, who wasted no time and parted with a fee of €6.5 million to sign him.
Manuel Ugarte stats
After signing for Sporting, Ugarte made his debut on August 14, 2022, against SC Braga. However, then-manager Ruben Amorim adopted a policy of slowly getting him up to speed with the system and sporadically played him for the first few months.
This helped Ugarte a lot, who would then play in every of the last 17 games for the team in the league. Ugarte ended the season with one goal and two assists.
However, this season, the midfielder has been at his best. Playing 47 games this season, the 22-year-old has been the brightest player in the Sporting squad. While he has no goals and assists in the league or the Champions League, a deeper look at his stats shows us his true potential.
In the current season, Ugarte has a pass success rate of over 91 per cent. In addition, he has won more than half of his duels and has a dribbling success rate of 62.5 per cent, which is pretty impressive for a defensive midfielder.
He has also made 121 tackles winning 70 of them, which is the best for any player in the entire league. Ugarte has also been brilliant at initiating the high press for his team. Stats from Soccerment show that Ugarte has completed 92 counter-pressing actions, the most in the league and better than any player from the top five leagues.
Manuel Ugarte scout report
Described as a ball stealer, Ugarte is the perfect number six for any side that wants to play attacking football with their front five (three attackers and two midfielders). He can be described as a young N Golo Kante with brilliant vision, passing skills and an almost unending stamina that allows him to convert every part of the ground and leave his teammates upfront to do their job in the attack.
Ugarte’s heat map shows a huge presence in every part of the field between the goals making him a hybrid of number six and box-to-box midfielder, a rare trait in such a young player. On top of that, Ugarte also possesses a brilliant passing range, making it almost impossible for anyone looking to track him down.
However, he also tends to make rash tackles, one of the reasons he has conceded 64 fouls, the most in the league. This, though, is a promising sign as he already has the talent but just needs to iron out his few weaknesses, which he will surely do considering his fast pace of development.
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Manuel Ugarte transfer news
With his talent and the stats that he has posted, Ugarte was bound to attract the interest of several top clubs; for the better part of the last month, Chelsea were making all efforts to make him their latest signing.
However, since then, Paris Saint Germain have entered the race, and now reports say that Chelsea have pulled out of the race considering the €60 million release clause that needs to be paid upfront.
And on June 5, the club announced that they would trigger the release clause, signing him and adding another young gem to their team as they look for a new approach post the departure of Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi.