The metamorphosis of Rodrigo De Paul, the engine of the Argentine national team: from an aimless hitch to Messi’s perfect partner

Rodrigo De Paul became one of the vital players for the Argentine National Team (Photo: EFE)

There is a crop of Argentine players that sprouted from grassroots football in those years where the hitch, that anarchic footballer with special abilities within the system, entered danger of extinction. It is a whole group of talented young people who had to adapt to the new paradigms, game models and work methodologies that modernized this sport. The traditional number 10s, who performed a privileged task in the ’70s and’ 80s, ceased to be the main gear of the teams when the schemes dispensed with that role and creation became a more integral matter. Also athletic ability took some ground away from technique and mental acuity, two factors that still make a difference but ceased to be absolutely decisive as in other times. Maybe that’s why Rodrigo De Paul it took time for him to find his current version, which has all those attributes and a few more: it became one of the most versatile midfielders in the world, in an immovable piece for the Argentina Selection and the perfect partner for Lionel Messi. After emerging in Racing Club As a simple attacker with a liaison air, only active in the final third, he emigrated to Europe with a lot of room for growth and had to go through different stages to consolidate himself as one of those influential footballers in various facets of the game.

I had only 19 years and little more than 50 games as a professional when the Valencia CF bought it from Racing Club, where with small gestures he had shown a special character. When his team was worse, he took over the shirt number 10 and it became the youngest captain in the history of the Academia by wearing the bracelet with 19 years, 10 months, and 21 days. His quality could emerge in that dynamic football that he proposed Luis Zubeldia, but it did not stop being pigeonholed to the band and the last meters. Its potential was limited in the midst of an institutional crisis and a demand for results that led to not very fruitful cycles of Carlos Ischia and Reinaldo Merlo. It ended up being sold to European football listed as one of the rough diamonds of the local league, but with a lot of room for improvement.

His debut in the elite was traumatic. He entered at 22 minutes of the second half in the match against Sevilla FC corresponding to the first day of the League 2014/15 and was instantly expelled. Lasted only 62 seconds on the court, saw the Red card for an elbow to Aleix Vidal, who was wounded and bleeding. It was difficult for him to enter into the consideration of Nuno Espírito Santo, a DT that in his drawings did not give the slightest room to the figure of the classic hitch. From Paul had to reinvent itself to add ownership, define your position on the playing field it was his biggest obstacle in the adaptation process.

Rodrigo De Paul had his first experience in Europe with Valencia CF (Photo: EFE)

Had come to Spain Without exploring his defensive tasks too much, his habitat was the last meters of the court, he played more in front of the ball line than behind it and took advantage of his skillful driving to unbalance. But in the philosophy of Nuno that was not enough. On the risers I put natural ends or fast front ends, so Rodrigo De Paul It couldn’t be that fake left winger that dazzled in Avellaneda. Unless he came home.

Had a brief loan period in Racing where he showed more steering wheel, accelerating with his driving to lead the transitions, as in those games in which he played inside left-handed staggered in Valencia, where he was supposed to return but despite having only 22 years they decided to sell it to Udinese. He received it Giuseppe Iachini, a technician who told it in midfield, but was fired after a few months and his successor, Luigi Delneri, began to use him as a right winger. In his first season, he stood over the band in a 4-3-3 who had to Duvan Zapata and Cyril Théréau on the offensive. And despite the fact that his dexterous profile naturally invited him to overflow, From Paul it did not lose that tendency to centralize and influence internal corridors.

The performances in the A league they began to finish shaping it. In his second campaign in the Football, under the orders of Julio Velazquez, became the second striker who played behind the center-forward in a 3-5-1-1. It was a cycle in which he enhanced his vertical passes, long-distance shots and his more offensive side. Played like shaft in attack and moved the strings, without losing that quota of physical deployment that completely exploded when Davide Nicola, and later Luca Gotti, led him to play at the base of the midfield, where he established himself as an essential player for the construction and execution of each of his team’s actions.

De Paul reached his football maturity at Udinese in Italy (Photo: AP)

His lack of direction in the beginning and the ability to adapt to different contexts made him one of the Most versatile midfielders in Europe. On Italy he grew physically and tactically, becoming a conductor who is not afraid to get muddy to support the group. It is not a pivot on the axis nor is it a playmaker, it is both at the same time. An all-rounder that works as a motor in the Argentina Selection from Lionel Scaloni, who in the 2019 Copa América had already made the decision to place him to the right of Leandro Paredes to be their spare wheel and push the team from there.

Scaloni benefited from his entire repertoire. On a defensive level, Rodrigo De Paul He brings sacrifice for recovery, intelligence in the pressure after loss, aggressiveness and efficiency for the takeoffs, and the strength when carrying the ball. Although beyond his wisdom to balance the team and cover the rest, plays a fundamental role in developing the leading position who has acquired the Albiceleste in recent years. His leadership in transitions, his handling of the ball and his vision of the game in the construction phase, his dribbling ability and his correct decision-making make him one of the essential players for the Argentine coach.

Rodrigo De Paul is the perfect partner of Lionel Messi in the National Team (Photo: REUTERS)

And it was also favored Lionel Messi, who found in From Paul to one of his great partners. According to data from choose, they both gave each other 203 passes, being the largest number of successful connections among all the players who are disputing the CONMEBOL Qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The Argentine captain looked for him in 91 opportunitieswhile you got the ball in 112 opportunities of the current Atlético Madrid player. Their special connection was also manifested in the America Cup who saw the Argentina become champion after 28 years without major titles: they found themselves in 86 occasions, a total figure that no other pair of players reached.

So far the Cholo Simeone, who also knew how to be the engine of Selection in his time as a player, he has taken it little by little in the Athletes. He has played in all three interior midfield positions in the 3-5-2 that he usually uses one of the trainers who can most empower him. To their 27 years, it is undeniable that Rodrigo De Paul He has the maturity and the necessary resources to be important in a club that defends the title of champion in Spain and seeks to continue to be a reference at the European level. Simeone you can further deepen those qualities in a Rodrigo De Paul who managed to adjust his compass and fully exploited its potential, because it emerged as a talented hitch But now that is only one of the many aspects that exist within his wide football repertoire.


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