Having just turned 22-years-old last month, Roger Ibañez certainly fits the bill as a young player, and as someone who burst onto the scene with no real prior track record, Ibañez definitely qualifies as a breakout player. Thanks to his surprising and stellar run through 2020, Ibañez nabbed two prizes in our first-ever year-end award ceremony, laying claim to the best U-23 player and breakout player of the year.
Signed from Atalanta in January of 2020, the book on Ibañez was incredibly thin. With only two appearances in Europe under his belt—a two-minute Serie A cameo against Genoa in May of 2019 and a 20 minute run against Shakhtar in the 2019 Champions League—Ibañez arrived in the capital an extremely raw but promising prospect.
Stuck behind Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling and Federico Fazio, Roma fans had to wait until June to get our first glimpses of Ibañez, but once the restart really got underway, Ibañez wasted little time impressing the Roma faithful. Starting seven of Roma's nine final matches in 2019-2020, Ibañez quickly impressed with his speed, technique, and composure; traits that have carried over to the new season, where Ibañez has started and gone the full 90 in all but four of his 16 appearances.
So quickly has Ibañez's stock risen, that he's already drawing the eyes of Europe's biggest clubs, leading to fears that he may be Roma's next FFP sacrificial lamb; be it this summer or the next. And with good reason. Through those 16 appearances, Ibañez has been one of the highest-rated center backs in the league, ranking in the top 20 league-wide (regardless of position) in tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks, while also completing nearly 87% of his passes.
Any way you slice it, Roger Ibañez was one of 2020's great surprises and one of it's best performers. Chances are we'll be able to say the same thing next year, so let's just hope his address hasn't changed by then.