Number Four: Leandro Paredes
Height: 1.80 m
Position: Defensive Midfield
Previous Club: Empoli
Current Club: Roma
Future Comparison: Andrea Pirlo (but with more defensive prowess)
Who Is He?
Raised in the prestigious Boca Juniors academy in Argentina, there's been tremendous pressure on Leandro Paredes his entire career. Despite playing only 29 matches for Boca, he was compared to club legend Juan Roman Riquelme due to his playing style and position as an attacking midfielder.
While the starlet's rise was quick, his transfer to Roma was not. Paredes was supposed to join Roma in the January transfer window of the 2013-14 season for an initial fee of 4.5 million euros, but had to spend the remainder of the Serie A season on loan at Chievo Verona instead because the capital club didn't have a non-EU roster spot available at the time.
Roma loaned Paredes in the summer of 2014, and exercised their option to make the transfer permanent for 6 million euros in the summer of 2015. Last season Paredes went on loan to Empoli, where he starred in one of the most talented young midfields in Serie A alongside Piotr Zielinski.
Despite having an excellent season in a top flight European league, Paredes wasn't able to parlay that into any international minutes this summer, but that might just be because the Argentine Football Association is in shambles at the moment.
What Can He Do?
Paredes, in addition to having piercing eyes that look into your soul, is a bit of a shape-shifter based on last season's performance at Empoli. He showed great defensive ability, which allowed him to slot in as a deep-lying play maker, otherwise known as a regista in Italy.
His defensive contributions, such as tackling and blocking the ball, are so solid that he breaks the mold of the traditional regista though; usually regista's have few defensive responsibilities (outside of positioning) and instead focus on starting attacks and controlling the tempo of the match.
While he only scored two goals and set up another last season, Paredes's play was instrumental in ways that don't necessarily show up in the major stat columns. From a deeper midfield position, he averaged 3.7 long balls per match, as well as 2.5 tackles per match and 1.5 interceptions per match. Paredes also averaged 58.6 passes per match, which shows how much he was on the ball and dictating play for Empoli. Check out his season highlights below:
Kudos to Empoli for actually playing Paredes and helping Roma to find his best playing position.
What Can He Become?
If Paredes can convince manager Luciano Spalletti that he's worthy of a spot in the midfield rotation, the Argentine should see significant minutes this year. In addition to being a good, young regista, he's pretty close to being a free-kick specialist already.
Problem is, with the impending arrival of right back Bruno Peres from Torino, that whole scenario is essentially meaningless as he might be sold to balance Roma's transfer market numbers. Paredes is valued at 10 million euros, but given his potential he could easily go for 20 or 25 million euros, which happens to be just over the amount Roma needs to pony up for Peres. Hmm...
While you ponder the fact that Paredes is potentially set to follow in the foot steps of Marquinhos and Erik Lamela, this song should serve as therapy. The chorus is very fitting. (fair warning there's a good amount of explicit lyrics)