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Manchester United must gazump Real Madrid for Paredes

 • by Mark Thompson
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Clubs might want to get their transfer business done early this summer, but for those interested in Zenit St Petersburg’s Leandro Paredes, they’ll have to wait.

The Argentine central midfielder has already said that any decision he makes about his future will wait until after the World Cup.

Liverpool were rumoured to have made a £26.5million bid for Paredes in January 2017, and he’s since attracted attention from Real Madrid and Juventus. According to Italian reports, he is now a Manchester United transfer target.

Players and clubs know that a World Cup can make or break a player’s valuation, and so a man who says he’ll wait until afterwards seems like a man confident of a relatively productive summer.

While he’s behind Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia in the pecking order, Paredes is a consistent fixture of Jorge Sampaoli’s squads. By the time of the World Cup, Mascherano and Biglia will have a combined age of 66, so are likely to be rotated heavily.

Who is Paredes?

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Paredes was born in 1994 in San Justo, a city just outside of Buenos Aires. Boca Juniors unsurprisingly came calling for the talented youngster, and he made his debut for the side in 2010 after spending his youth career at their academy.

A training ground injury in 2013 hampered what could have been a break-out season for him aged 19, but the following year he moved to Italy. His road to Roma took a short diversion to Chievo after the Giallorossi realised they had filled their quota of non-EU players for the season.

When he left Argentina he was an advanced playmaker, with comparisons drawn to Juan Román Riquelme, but in Italy he learned to play deeper.

Joining Roma in 2014/15, Paredes had a season on loan at Empoli in 2015/16 – the assistant coach there, Giovanni Martusciello, said: “he could easily become the next playmaker for Argentina.”

Back in the capital, Paredes started 15 times in the league for Roma in 2016/17 before joining Zenit last summer for €27million, where he has scored three and assisted twice in 22 games .

What are Paredes’ main strengths?

The lack of goals and assists from such a talented player comes in part because of how deep he plays. For Zenit, he consistently helps build attacks from just in front of the back four.

As such, conventional statistics like assists or key passes don’t tend to capture his skills. However, we can see through more advanced metrics like Passing Ability (how good he is at completing passes, taking into account difficulty of pass) and xG Buildup (the value of chances he’s involved in the build-up of).

 

These stats partly come from his technical ability, partly from his reading of the game, but also from his extraordinary calmness under pressure, as an early section of the below highlights video shows.

It’s no surprise that he’s dispossessed just 0.66 times per 90, a very low rate compared to those in his position and league.

Paredes also has a great delivery from set pieces, and produces 1.51 key passes from dead ball situation per 90 minutes, the highest in the Russian Premier League.

He’s also adept at spreading the play, completing 10.67 long balls per 90. This is the third highest number among midfielders in the league, with a huge success rate of 63 per cent.

What are Paredes’ main weaknesses?

For a deep-lying midfielder, defending isn’t his strongest suit. While his reading of the game is good, he has the trotting out-of-possession movement of someone who used to be an attacking midfielder and doesn’t appear to be enamoured with the idea of defending.

Perhaps this contributes to his low number of defensive actions. He makes 1.03 interceptions and 1.63 tackles per 90, both of which are well below the average for midfielders in the Russian Premier League.

Key stats

Key stats for Zenit St Petersburg's Leandro Paredes

How much is Paredes worth?

Liverpool’s bid of £26.5million in January 2017 and his transfer fee to Zenit of €27million indicate the promise that clubs believe Paredes to have.

It’s been rumoured that Real Madrid offered €35million for him, but if Paredes has a good World Cup, or if a bidding war ensues, this price tag could well increase.

Twenty-three is a good age to sign a player; it’s a stage where it’s fairly easy to know what their ability is while still leaving room to grow.

If Manchester United were planning to buy someone to play with Paul Pogba in a central midfield pair they could do with someone more defensively minded.

However, Paredes and Pogba in a trio with a defensive anchor alongside them could be something that would work very nicely indeed.

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