Welcome back to On the Break! I hope everyone is doing well considering the situation we find ourselves in! If you’ve missed any previous parts of the series, click HERE to catch up. In this post, we’re going to take a more in depth look at the crop of young players we have looking to force their way into the first team.
NB. This post is being written half way through the 2023 season, so the ‘Class of 2022’ have been in the game for a season and a half, and the ‘Class of 2023’ have only had half a season of youth football.
CLASS OF 2022
Jonathan is a technically well rounded goalkeeper with no glaring weaknesses, although probably better suited to a traditional Goalkeeper role than the more commonly used Sweeper Keeper. He’s a tall boy but a stiff breeze could knock him down so we need him to toughen up a bit, but that will come with age. We also need to see some improvement in some of his mental attributes, particularly Determination, although his strong Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning are a positive starting point.
Jonathan played 25 times for the U19’s in his first season keeping 12 clean sheets, and has now been promoted to the Reserves, where he is first choice and at the time of writing has kept 7 clean sheets in 26 games, albeit in a much weaker reserves side.
Long term I can definitely see Jonathan making his way into the first team picture, although I’ll potentially look for a loan move for him for next year to get him some higher level experience before he makes that jump.
Andrés is quite similar to Jonathan in a lot of his technical attributes, although his weaker Handling and Throwing attributes are cause for concern. He’s another tall but slender keeper, so again needs to really bulk out and toughen up, but it’s the mental side of the game that really leaves Andrés lagging behind. He’s still young, sure, but 4 of his key mental attributes need a lot of work to really get to a high level of men’s football, and with a Determination of just 8 I’m not sure that he’s going to have the drive to really push to that level.
Andrés played 19 games for the U19s in 2022, keeping 10 clean sheets, and so far this season has kept 14 clean sheets in 21 games while rotating with another keeper that we will meet properly later on.|
The rest of this year and next season will see Andrés stay in our youth sides to play as much football as possible, and after that we’ll assess his progress and look at the possibility of a loan move.
Moving away from goalkeepers, and we have Matías Fernández, who when the first intake came out was the jewel in the crown.
Matías doesn’t have any singular standout attributes that make him an exceptional talent, but he’s very well rounded and doesn’t have a considerable weakness in any area of his game. If he can start to turn some of the 9s he has in key defensive attributes into 10s and 11s he’ll instantly look a more imposing defender. I’d like his determination to be higher, as with a few of this intake, but I still believe he’ll have a very bright future at the club.
Matías has played over 90 games at youth level for Defensor already, and is ready in my opinion for a loan move to get him used to a higher level, although as of yet we’ve been unable to find him that move.
Nicolás is a slightly less well rounded but more formidable defender than Matías, I like to think of the two of them as my Rio and Nemanja. 6’4″ with 16 for Jumping Reach is insane for an 18 year old, and if we can work up a few of those mentals, particularly his Bravery and Positioning, then we could have a very special talent on our hands.
Nicolás was dominant in his first year of youth football, playing 44 games and managing to bag himself 10 goals, showing just how good he is in the air. Annoyingly I don’t have his stats at youth level for this year as after the Apertura he was loaned to Sud América in the Segunda División and has since broken into their first team. We’ll see how he progresses between now and January, but it looks likely to be another loan next year and then back home to challenge for a first team berth.
Cristian is a very talented young playmaker, with exceptional technical ability. His ability to take a touch and pick a pass are already up there with some of the best in the division, and as his mental attributes improve as he gains more experience the influence he can have on games will only grow.
I’m certain that it’s a matter of when, and not if, he makes it into the first team, but I want him to improve more first so that he can really make a difference. Much like Matías Fernández he has a lot of attributes at 9, if he can bump them quite soon into 10s and even more, he’ll really start to look more rounded. I’d also like him to improve physically, but that will come with time, and as a playmaker his physical attributes aren’t as crucial as in some other roles.
Cristian had an incredible first season in youth football, scoring 5 goals and creating 26 more in just 37 games! Again I don’t have youth level stats for this year, but he’s now on loan at Boston River in the Segunda División and although he isn’t in great form, I’m more interested in getting him the game time than focusing too much on how he performs.
I mentioned when the first intake came through that I had a little soft spot for Nahuel, and he’s certainly done nothing to make me regret that statement.
Technically he has very good attributes, I’d like his passing to be better, but I very much see him as a goal-scorer rather than a creator going forwards. His dribbling, finishing and technique are already good enough for our level and his first touch isn’t terrible. Physically he’s already very well set, he’s a small lad so strength is never going to be his strong suit but he’s very quick and agile and will only get better. His mentals are also very strong for this stage of his career, and a bit of improvement in his Anticipation and Decisions will really set him on the right path.
Nahuel scored 23 goals and set up 11 more in 35 games at youth level last season, playing predominately from the left wing, but I very much see his career flourishing as an out and out centre forward.
CLASS OF 2023
Alejandro is a very talented young man, but has a lot of work to do in some areas and is a lot more raw than either Damián or Dutra. He really needs to work on his Aerial Reach, Handling and Throwing as a bare minimum technically, and if he could improve his ability with the ball at his feet then that would be a bonus. Mentally he doesn’t have any severe weaknesses but there’s still a long way to go, but that will come with time and experience, he is only 16 after all. I know he’s still very young but the fact that he’s 5’10” and has a jumping reach of 6 really concerns me, the ceiling for growth in this area of his game may be quite low.
Alejandro has played 21 games at youth level this season, keeping 14 clean sheets and also really impressed in a pre-Intermedio friendly against the first team, so the potential is definitely there, we just need to work him hard to get him there. He’ll continue to play U19s football this season and next, and from there we’ll look at a loan move for him.
Diego de los Santos
Diego came through the intake at the age of 15 and already 2* currently ability according to the coaches, so to say he’s an exciting prospect is an understatement. Already very competent defensively, he’s not exactly a liability going forward either, although he isn’t going to be a player that beats a man one on one very often. The big thing that Diego needs to work on in his physicality, as it’s essential for a full-back to be able to get up and down that flank all day long. His stamina, work rate and pace all need to improve massively in that respect, but he’s still got ages yet to work on it. I like that he’s comfortable on either foot, and will possibly look to train him on the left flank, as it’ll give him another avenue into the first team.
Diego has already been promoted to the Reserves side, but hasn’t played a huge amount of football, with only 6(11) appearances so far, so he may dip back into the U19s side for parts of the Clausura so that he doesn’t stagnate.
Santiago has all the talent in the world, and you could argue is maybe a better player than Diego, he’s certainly more rounded. He’s a better attacking threat but still very competent defending, and has a lot stronger physical attributes and excellent work rate, which as we said above with Diego are essential for a successful full-back. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, though, that determination.
1 out of 20! No matter what level your side are at, that is completely unacceptable. There are so many players littered throughout football who could be truly exceptional, but didn’t bother to put in the effort required to succeed, and I’m worried that Santiago will fall into that trap. I’m not giving up on his potential, I’ll do everything I can to see him succeed, but he’ll be more work than most, I fear.
Santiago has made 18(13) appearances so far for the U19s, scoring one goal and assisting 9 more, very handy numbers indeed. At 15 it’s far too early to be looking at anything other than youth football for Santiago, hopefully he continues to play well.
Germán has a lot of strengths but is still very raw. He also suffers from his natural game as a ball winner not really suiting what we’ve put in place at Defensor, although he could very easily develop into a handy playmaker from deep.
A lot of the things I’ve said about many of the others apply to Germán too, he’s well rounded but with a lot of work to do, so it’s very much a case of being patient with him, and allowing him to develop within the youth system. His teamwork and bravery stand out as excellent attributes, and he has good levels of stamina and natural fitness too, which will be key in the centre of midfield.
Germán has played 31 games for the U19s this year, scoring 2 goals and creating 6 more, but also has a very impressive disciplinary record, collecting only 2 yellow cards, and winning 75% of his tackles in the process.
I’ll be honest, Alejandro is pretty comfortably the weakest player being covered today. I don’t expect him to go on and have a glittering career, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore him. He’s determined and hard working which will help him reach his potential, and as an either-footed central midfielder he offers an interesting prospect. His key technical attributes aren’t bad at all, and although he does have some glaring weaknesses (his aerial ability, strength and positioning most notably) he could most definitely develop into a handy player to fulfill a certain role.
Alejandro has played 19(8) games this season at youth level, scoring a single goal and creating four more, but has kept play ticking with a pass completion rate of 85%.
Ignacio has some really good technicals for a 15 year old, especially his dribbling and technique, and his finishing of 10 already matches Pablo López who scores for fun for the first team. He’s a fit lad, and although he isn’t quick, his pace isn’t awful and can improve to a decent level.
His mentals are his undoubted weakness, but as I’ve said many times in this post, at 15 that’s to be expected, and he’s got literal years to work on them before he’s going to be expected to challenge the first team. I think he can develop to the level we need him to, but am I confident in it? Not hugely.
Ignacio has scored 12 goals and created 4 more in 18(13) games for the U19s this season, and recently has started to play a few more games out on the left wing, which makes his goal scoring more impressive.
I might have saved the best until last here.
Christian is fit, quick, determined and a devastating finisher, all at the age of 16. Of course there’s still a long long way to go, but he could arguably already hold his own in the Primera División and has already scored for the first team in a pre-season friendly. His talent has also been spotted further afield, as he’s already represented Uruguay at U20 level.
His main areas to improve are going to be his work rate and decision making first and foremost, and then as he gets older and develops I’d like him to become more of an aerial threat if he can.
Christian has scored a remarkable 41 goals in 38 games, and laid on another 6 for teammates for the U19s this season, truly exceptional numbers, and I’d expect him to top 60 goals by the end of the season. It’ll be reserves level football for Christian next season, possibly with a loan move on the cards once he turns 17.
So those are the best prospects from our first two youth intakes, hopefully there are many more to come! There are a couple of other youngsters kicking around filling out the squad, but just with the players in this post we can field a full 11, admittedly with some of them out of their best positions.
So that’s it for this post, hopefully you’ve enjoyed having a more in depth look at some potential future stars. The next post will be the conclusion of the 2023 season, it’s all to play for!
Thanks for reading.