19th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Despite being stuck behind AS Roma's exceptional midfielder duo of Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman for chunks of the season, Leandro Paredes has proved himself to be a brilliant replacement whenever afforded an opportunity.
The former Boca Juniors product, who Roma signed as a trequartista in 2014 and was transformed into a deep lying playmaker under Marco Giampaolo on loan at Empoli last season, has continued his adaption to his new role beautifully. Indeed, as the campaign's progressed and he's further honed his skillset at the base of midfield, Paredes' importance to the Giallorossi has grown rapidly, with his form seeing him emerge as a creative, reliable and durable option.
"I was always a trequartista until I joined Roma. When I went to Empoli, [Marco] Giampaolo put me in front of the defence. I really like the position. I had my doubts in the beginning because I'd never played there before, but I enjoy it now. I get the ball a lot, which I really like. I still think I can improve a lot there's plenty still to learn. It's not even been two years since I started playing there so I can still learn a lot, especially playing with someone like Daniele [De Rossi]," Paredes explained.
"I can improve in every area and that's what I try to do every time I train. I still need to get better. I know I have two teammates in my position who are doing very well so I hope to match up to them."
Courtesy of injuries and suspension to his rivals in his nominal position, Roma's busy schedule and Paredes' strong performances, the Argentine's encouragingly racked up a hefty 40 appearances for the Wolves in all competitions, with 15 of those coming as a substitute.
So when Strootman was unavailable for Roma's colossal clash with Juventus at the weekend, Luciano Spalletti had no problems handing Paredes another start, knowing full well his young charge had what it takes to play against Italy's finest team. For Juventus, who are reportedly very keen on signing the talent, Paredes gave them a first hand look at his multifaceted capabilities.
Alongside De Rossi, Paredes oozed precision, class, composure and confidence throughout, with his performance being an integral reason why Roma recorded a stirring 3-1 triumph. To start with, his well timed movements to drop deep and receive possession from the centre backs gave him a brilliant platform from which to instigate and orchestrate his team's passing moves. Then, once Roma had progressed beyond the first phase of build up and the centre backs stepped out, he and De Rossi would occupy the left and right half space, meaning switching the angle of attack, shifting Juve's defensive structure and retaining the ball was made easier.
Back to his exquisite passing ability, probably the most exciting feature of his game, and the 22-year-old employed this to devastating effect to construct, create and animate for his team. Using his vast repetoire of passing, he was able to successfully hit line breaking vertical passes to find his attackers, play sweeping diagonals out to the flanks, execute fast combinations under pressure or coolly recirculate the ball. Put simply, whatever situation he was confronted with at any given moment, he had a pass to combat it.
The aforementioned occupation by De Rossi and Paredes of the half spaces also held great importance on the defensive end, allowing the fullbacks an ideal platform to push forward, while providing structural security in the event of a turnover. Moreover, the marking jobs he and De Rossi did on their opponents, Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina, was vital in nullifying Juve's connectivity in their build up.
Further reasons for positivity in his defensive exertions arose from his tireless work rate, his snap in the tackle and pressing intensity, which were accompanied nicely by his brilliant statistics that state he completed six clearances, five tackles, two interceptions and two blocked shots.
After another wicked, all encompassing body of work from Paredes, Roma would be wise to do everything in their power to ward off the many potential suitors interested in signing him this summer that, on top of Juventus, also include Arsenal and Liverpool.
Spalletti, who'll most likely depart his managerial post come season's end, clearly holds the man who idolised Juan Roman Riquelme and Zinedine Zidane in extremely high esteem, recently stating what a masterful talent he is. "Paredes is a very similar sort of player to (David) Pizarro in the way he makes the team tick," Spalletti insisted. "It's a great quality to have. He's a perfect fit for the deep-lying playmaker role and we need someone like that.
"Having a player who can pull the strings for you and help you keep possession is a huge bonus because all the time we have the ball we're not running around chasing after it. He's one of the best at doing that."
Whatever the future holds for the promising Paredes, there's no reason why it shouldn't be one full of excitement and played at the game's absolute highest level.
More by Edward at Licence to Roam.
Why Roma Should Aim to Keep Leandro Paredes This Summer
19th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.