After discussing all things FM with a friend over the weekend, I was brought right up to date with his Deportivo de La Coruña save, and the concept gripped my interest. I watched a lot of WorkTheSpace’s Park to Primera during the summer, and with the league restructure, I fancied starting a non-blog save with Racing Santander to avoid a potential burnout down the line.
Immediately, I was drawn to young Pablo Torre and my goal was to build the team around him. 18 years of age, and already drawing interest from around Europe, he really has the potential to kick on and become a well-known name.
Two footed. Small & agile. The ability to play the killer ball. Three areas of Torre’s game that stand out, all at a young age – he should only get better year on year. But this blog post is not based on the young Spaniard. It is a post about the enganche positional role so let’s get into it.
Enganche roughly translates to “hook” in English, and that is exactly what this position is set up to do. Deployed as an attacking midfielder, their job is to be the hook from midfield to attack and ensure teams are punished with creativity. Wide players and strikers thrive on the enganche’s ability to see the pockets of space in the opposition defence, whilst having the technique and ability to play the killer ball into said space. But where did it all begin for the enganche?
Argentinian football began deploying the enganche in the 60s, with Diego Maradona being the known player for the role during the 80s for Argentina, although many will proclaim that he wasn’t a true enganche due to his dribbling ability – often dropping into the midfield or going wide into space like a trequartista. Ultimately, an enganche stayed centrally to unlock defences; often suiting their lacking physical qualities. Juan Román Riquelme then became the go-to enganche for Argentina – his ability on the ball was something to behold, whilst his build meant it would be more difficult for oppositions to take the ball off him in the central areas.
Going by the previous two examples’ reputation in the game, we have established already what an enganche requires; ball control, passing, composure, confidence, vision and agility. Having a player possessing these qualities in the final third meant the vast majority of final balls paid off and teams would have pressure alleviated due to the accuracy of the pass. More modern-day examples of an enganche would be David Silva and Mesut Özil – both players not known for their ability to cover ground, but for their creative spark in the final third.
However, football is evolving and as a result of this, the enganche is a rare breed. Gegenpressing has ramped up the pace and intensity of a game, meaning that the enganche would have less time to pick out the killer pass and would be required to put in a defensive shift out of possession. The enganche is a luxury player, but if deployed correctly, would pay in dividends – David Silva’s creativity drove Manchester City to four league titles, Ozil played his part in Real Madrid domestic success and Arsenal’s FA Cup successes over the years.
So how do you best utilise the enganche? Personally, I would ensure that I used a formation that would utilise wide players – wingers or wing-backs. This would then take some of the attention away from your enganche in the middle of the park and provide a bit more space to play with. A 4312 with attacking full-backs would certainly work, along with a 4231 wide or a 433 with two central midfielders in behind. In essence, creating a false sense of security for the opposition as they think the threat is likely to come from the flanks.
Sticking to the origins of the enganche, I scoured Argentina for players that could be effective in the role for your saves.
As expected, younger players are difficult to judge due to their different stages of development coupled with their determination and personality. Not many young players will be fully composed, others will need a push in the right direction when it comes to individual training programmes. However, having looked through all 20 teams in the Argentine Premier Division, these 6 caught my eye.
15 vision was going to be my initial starting point, but when I clocked Brandon Barbas I had to consider letting certain individuals pass. At 19 years of age, Barbas has a similar build to Riquelme and would fit the position quite well. He has some great technical qualities but lacks the flair to really stand out as a traditional enganche.
Moving on from Barbas, the vision quality dropped by one in Gianfranco Cabrera, but again he looks to be a fantastic prospect in the making. Great technicals to fit the role, the mentals are coming along nicely, but the only area of his game that could do with honing in on is his agility. With the engance being required to have a low centre of gravity to keep the ball under pressure, this is key in today’s game.
Joaquin Panichelli is my favourite of the bunch. Playing with one of Argentina’s biggest clubs at such a young age will give him exposure to massive games to bring up his composure and will only have him on the right path in due course. Fantastic technical ability, with good mentals to back it up, Panichelli is one to certainly consider; especially being available on a youth contract.
Leandro Iglesias has considerably less dribbling quality than some names on this list, but what he lacks in dribbling, he makes up in his control and passing. 20 years old, he has the potential to kick on, but it is worth noting that his flair is on the low side.
The final two players that make up this section both come from Huracán and although Nayib Mohamed is not Argentinian, he has been brought up with the Argentinian style of play. Firstly, Matías Forlano is an absolute stand out with his 18 vision and 14 technique. 11 decision making means he will not get it right every single time, but that is expected with youth players. 19 years old and with the right mentoring, he can certainly learn how to make the right decision at the right moment. Nayib Mohamed has a bit of work to do on the technical side of his game, but the 17 determination can only work in any manager’s favour as he strives to improve. Mentally, Mohamed is the player you want to take under your wing and improve, and he will certainly pick defences apart in the future.
Argentina U19s & U20s
Moving away from the compensation deals, we now have players that will be sure to cost a pretty penny. First up on the list is Darío Sarmiento who plays under the City Football Group umbrella. Immediately, being a Manchester City player, means he is not going to be cheap to get a hold of, but if you can get a hold of him and develop him correctly, he could certainly become a talented footballer. A well-balanced set of attributes means there are not too many areas to nitpick on; the only clear and obvious ones are his passing and decision making which could be developed quickly with his determination.
I really like the look of Juan Sforza, purely for his ability to make the right decision on the park. Sforza has a set of attributes plenty of players would be envious of, but the trait of playing short simple passes goes against the enganche. Could you get him to be more adventurous in the final third and bring joy to the other attacking players?
Finally, we have Matías Palacios of FC Basel who looks to be a tricky enganche. 17 flair and 15 agility mean the opposition will struggle to tie him down, whilst his technical abilities will carve open defences. Palacios made the move to Europe in 2020, so it would be possible to sign him in the first season, but he could certainly command quite a high fee, and rightly so!
To end my search for suitable enganches, I thought it would be appropriate to end with two players that have to be considered during any window; providing funds are available.
From the outset of the game, you will find it difficult to get your hands on Rodrigo De Paul, and rightly so. De Paul is well known for his time with Udinese, moving on from Valencia after 44 appearances and not really showing what he was capable of. Udinese deployed him more in a central midfield role, but De Paul still contributed to 70 goals and assists during his spell with I Bianconeri before moving back to Spain. De Paul is an exceptional talent, and at 27 years of age, any manager would be able to get plenty more years out of him.
I think it is a given at this point that Thiago Almada finds himself on any sort of potential signing lists, and quite rightly so with his skill-set. At the age of 20, this boy is only going to improve, but he would be capable of walking into most clubs first team.
Amazingly, there is not too much between the two players – De Paul has the edge given he is 7 years older and is more experienced than young Thiago:
Given how much the world of football tactics has evolved, it isn’t surprising to see that there are not many Argentinians that fit the bill of the enganche. However, there are just enough talents out there that could do the job and unlock the opposition’s defensive door.
They might not live up to the greats of Diego Maradona or Juan Román Riquelme. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but taking inspiration from these two Argentinian greats? Well, it could only be a luxury to any manager that can reap the attacking benefits.
The enganche will not be for everyone. Some may favour the Italian trequartista. But maybe, just maybe, the enganche may just surprise you.
Thanks for reading!