In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the football world. Next up is Racing Avellaneda’s 22-year-old midfielder Matias Zaracho.
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Consistently one of the best young players in Argentina over the past three seasons, 22-year-old midfielder Matias Zaracho is understandably gaining plenty of attention from across the Atlantic.

The local lad from Avellaneda has been on Racing’s books since the age of eight and rose to prominence as a key player in La Academia’s Superliga 2018/19 triumph. Zaracho’s dynamism, crisp passing and versatility saw him earn a senior national team debut in March last year, while he was also an integral member of the Argentina U23 side that qualified for the Olympics.

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In his 96 appearances for Racing, Zaracho has shown his flexibility within different tactical setups. More recently he has featured in the centre or right of the more advanced midfield three in a 4-1-3-2, thus allowing him to operate in his preferred space on the right, as demonstrated by the heatmap above.

Equally happy on the right of a diamond, Zaracho’s positional intelligence, mobility and versatility makes him an all-round modern midfielder and, on occasions, he has even been used in a more attacking role as an auxiliary winger on the wide right.

With an average pass accuracy of 86.5% across his career, Zaracho not only looks after the ball well but also boasts an impressive range of distribution. As well as his reliable short passing game, he can make things happen going forward by breaking the lines (typically 9.4 forward passes per 90). He can also chip in with the odd assist – albeit this is an area of his game that could be improved.

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One of the most striking features of Zaracho’s style of play is the timing of his runs into the box. These late arrivals into the penalty area have been a fruitful source of goals, underlined by the fact that all but one of his strikes have come inside the box.

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This clever off-the-ball movement is complemented by his dynamism with the ball at his feet too. Zaracho carries the ball well and last season averaged 4.47 dribbles per 90 with a decent 40.48% success rate.

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These trademark forward bursts are enabled by Zaracho’s great stamina which allows him to tirelessly get up and down the pitch for the entire game.  Former manager Eduardo Coudet even called him a “60kg tractor” in reference to the engine on his midfield dynamo.

As with any modern box-to-box midfielder, Zaracho’s energy is also vital for the defensive side of his game, which is perhaps less heralded but arguably one of his most impressive qualities. Zaracho tackles well and cleanly, as shown by the fact he doesn’t pick up too many cards, and averages 3.81 interceptions per game.

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However, it’s his pressing where his defensive ability comes into its own. Last season he made more recoveries in the final third (2.61) than any other attacking player in the league and his stats for counter-pressing recoveries (4.74) were among the highest in the division.

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Here we see an example of Zaracho’s ability to press and win the ball in the final third, close to goal to create goal-scoring opportunities. The Colon defender tries to control the ball with his chest, but the ball loops up and Zaracho sees his chance to pounce.

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Zaracho’s acceleration, strength and anticipation see him win the ball and, with a second defender closing in, he uses his balance and close control to jink into the space in behind the defence.

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Zaracho’s momentum and pace carry him away from the lumbering Colon defenders and into the box, where he is able to get a shot away on target.

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With everyone from AC Milan to Leeds and Atletico Madrid linked with the industrious Racing schemer, it will take a reasonable sum to prize one of the most highly-rated prospects away from El Cilindro, but if his consistently excellent displays are anything to go by then it would be a wise investment.


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