Matias Viña is the newest member of A.S. Roma to feature in our U-23 Countdown this year, and barring those players that have already become a big part of the senior side, he has the path of least resistance to become a star for i Lupi. While Leonardo Spinazzola tragically tearing his Achilles during the Euros this summer put Roma in a bind, Tiago Pinto’s replacement for the Italian international should not be seen as just a stop-gap fix. If anything, Roma’s General Manager has brought in a player who could push Spinazzola for the starting left-back spot, albeit by providing a different kind of skill-set than the Lovely Leo.
Number Six: Matías Viña
Position: Left-back or left-wing-back
Previous Clubs: Club Nacional de Football (2017 - 2020), Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras (2020-2021)
Future Comparisons: Alex Sandro, or Emerson Palmieri with more defensive chops
Who Is He?
Born in Empalme Olmos on November 9, 1997, Matías Nicolás Viña Susperreguy is an academy product of Nacional, a club that traditionally dukes it out with Club Peñarol for the title of the biggest club in Uruguay every season. Viña’s story with Nacional’s senior side begins in 2017, but it truly begins in earnest in 2019; during that season, Viña scored five goals in 44 appearances across all competitions, helping lead his boyhood side to its forty-seventh Primera Division title and its first Supercopa Uruguaya. His performances with Nacional that season caught the attention of Brazilian superclub Palmeiras, who signed him for €4.5 million and made him their new starting left-back.
Viña continued his excellent form after his move to Palmeiras, notching 48 appearances and three goals across all competitions for Palestra. Those performances were crucial in helping the São Paolo club win the Copa do Brasil, the Campeonato Paulista, and the Copa Libertadores this past season, and they also helped cement Viña’s place in the Uruguayan National Team. Two seasons in a row of success like that guaranteed that Viña would soon be moving to Europe, and when Roma lost Leonardo Spinazzola to an Achilles tear, Tiago Pinto quickly spent €11 million to bring Viña to Rome.
What Can He Do?
I won’t bore you too much with a poor attempt to replicate Steve’s excellent article comparing Viña to Spinazzola; the link is right here, and the work Steve shows highlights that Viña provides an intriguing alternative to Spinazzola while the Italian recovers from his Achilles tear.
As a quicker summary, though, it’s safe to say that Viña’s play provides defensive counter-balance to the more attack-oriented play Leonardo Spinazzola brings to Roma’s left-back stable. There is no player who can act as a perfect replacement for Spinazzola in the rest of the footballing world. He is truly a unique player, supplying creativity and attacking prowess at the left-back position in a way that is typically reserved for especially creative left wingers. When he avoids injury, his form can reach the heights where he’s your team’s MVP, as was seen with Italy at the Euros and with Roma for the entirety of the 2020/2021 season. Given that, Viña projects as good a substitute for Spinazzola’s work as Tiago Pinto could afford, particularly if you’re interested in seeing what an offensively unleashed Rick Karsdorp might be able to do with a more defense-minded full-back partner.
While there are signs that Viña can act as a more attacking full-back, his defense has been more of a calling card to date. Even with the caveat that he’s coming from the Brazilian Serie A, his defensive numbers are quite nice. 1.6 interceptions, 2.3 tackles, and 1.7 clearances per ninety is nothing to sneeze at, and if Viña continues to improve as he has since first lighting it up for Nacional, the sky just might be the limit.
What Can He Become?
Well, that’s the question that a lot of Roma’s season hangs on, isn’t it? Barring Tammy Abraham, Viña is the new signing with the most hanging on his shoulders as he comes into the squad. Although Mourinho manages a side differently than Paulo Fonseca, to say the least, there’s no denying that Leonardo Spinazzola was the star and offensive linchpin of Roma last year. If Viña is able to provide quality performances in a similar (but not identical) way to Spinazzola while he recovers from his Achilles tear, you’re going to start hearing phrases like “Tiago Pinto Masterclass” a lot more often.
Viña certainly has the ability to provide defensive cover for the Giallorossi’s more attack-oriented players, like Rick Karsdorp; simultaneously, don’t be surprised if Mourinho attempts to mold Viña into more of an attacking full-back along the lines of Spinazzola. It wouldn’t make much sense for José Mourinho to have to recreate his tactics from scratch once Spinazzola returns from his injury rehab, just because the young full-back filling his cleats doesn’t have the same level of attacking prowess from the word go.