Whenever we mention about a title race in La Liga, it usually involves two significant teams: Real Madrid and Barcelona, with Atletico Madrid emerging as a challenger once every few years. However, this season has been a different story altogether, as Girona FC have surprised all by challenging Los Blancos for the title.
Girona doesn’t have a star-studded squad, but every player in their ranks has performed to the best of their capabilities. The star of the show is obviously their creative genius, Savio. However, right-back Yan Couto is another underrated star who has contributed his bit.
The defender was signed on loan from Premier League champions Manchester City and has been worth every penny. His performance has caught the interest of Real Madrid, who want to sign him as a long-term successor to Dani Carvajal.
But is he the next rising star from Brazil, and what do his stats say about the imperious defender?
Yan Couto profile
Yan Couto was born on June 3, 2002, in Curitiba, situated in Parana province in Brazil. While the city didn’t offer the quality of football clubs such as those in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Couto’s parents put his faith in the local club Coritiba. It was the best club in the state, which offered the best chance for Couto to develop himself in his hometown.
Being in a club that was not among the best in Brazil didn’t deter Couto’s spirits, though. Couto was the star of the youth teams, and his hard work was finally rewarded when he was selected in the final Brazilian squad for the 2019 South American U-17 Championship.
The Selecao performed poorly and exited in the group stage, with Couto being one of the few positives in an abysmal campaign. This earned him a place in the under-17 World Cup. Couto started brilliantly before serving a two-game suspension for a red card.
With Brazil reaching the quarter-finals without his services, the management faced a tough question of whether to reintegrate him into the squad. They put their faith in him, and he delivered with one assist each in the semi-final and final, which helped Brazil win the title.
This would earn him a call-up to Coritiba senior squad, and a year later, Manchester City swapped in to sign him.
While he earned a few appearances for Manchester City, it was clear that he needed more time to be ready to become a part of the senior team at the club. So he was sent on several loan spells to Griona and Sporting Braga.
Yan Couto stats
Couto’s first great season at the senior level was the 2022-23 season, where he, for the first time, was an integral part of Girona’s squad. He ended the season with one goal and two assists. White is also being ranked among the team’s top five players in successful dribbles and crosses.
At the end of the season, Griona managed to extend his loan for another year. This season, Couto has grabbed his chance with both hands. At the time of writing this article, Couto had the joint second-highest assists in the league.
What makes Couto special is his brilliance in attack. He can be likened to a Trent Alexander Arnold, but while the Liverpool man’s main strength is his passing, Couro thrives on his impressive ball-carrying ability.
Couto’s attacking instincts don’t mean that he has neglected his definitive duties this season. In fact, he has made the second most successful tackles on the team.
His Expected Threat (xT) rating of 1.55 is also among the top fullbacks in the league as well as his xOVA (2,85).
Yan Couto style of play
Yan Couto is the perfect example of the rise in what can be called as the ‘creative full backs’.Couto is a mix of Joshua Kimmich and Trent Alexander Arnold, which makes him a perfect fullback for teams that play attacking and high-pressing football akin to Gegenpressing.
On top of that, the success that Manchester City has experienced in the last few seasons has led other teams to put more onus on their fullbacks to help the team creatively. And this is what makes Couto a must-have in any top team.
The Brazilian can easily integrate into any team with his incredible space and ball-carrying capability. On top of that, his passing skills, though not as great as his ball-carrying skills, are also good enough for a fullback.
On top of all these skills, Couto is among his team’s top runners, covering every inch of the ground on the right flank. There are fast fullbacks, and then there are those who can run endlessly, but there are few fullbacks who can do both, and that too for the entirety of the game. Yan Couto is among the handful who can do both.
Yan Couto potential
This season, Yan Couto has shown he has what it takes to make it in one of the world’s top leagues. If he helps Girona win a historic La Liga title, his stocks will only rise further. Real Madrid are desperate for a full abc who can replace Carvajal. Couto is the perfect fit, but City also know they have a star player on their hands. With Rico Lewis emerging as a brilliant alternative to Kyle Walker, Couto could be forced to look elsewhere.
This only proves that he has an amazing career ahead of him. His next challenge is to make this incredible season a regular occurrence as he elevates himself from a top prospect to an established star for both the club and Brazil.