South America is an inexhaustible source of talented footballers and each transfer window, some of them move to Europe to play on football’s highest stage. For this analysis, we dive into South America to find interesting midfielders who can impact the scoreline and make a difference for their team. It is a long time since we enjoyed true no.10’s from Argentina like Pablo Aimar and Juan Román Riquelme, who starred in La Liga just like Brazilian magician Ronaldinho who was arguably the best player in the world when he played at Barcelona for a few years.
Through this data analysis, we will highlight some offensive-minded midfielders who are capable of creating chances but also can score goals from the shadow with smart runs into the penalty area or converting shots from outside the box.
The Wyscout dataset we collected contains players whose main position is no.8 or no.10 and it contains 498 players which played at least 900 minutes in the last calendar year. All South American first tiers are included in the dataset. With the use of data, we decided which players are performing good enough to be interesting for European clubs and could strengthen the teams with a lack of midfielders who can create & score. There are six options we highlighted, some of these players can play at the Champions League level, while some of them have the potential to play on that level or at least be good players in the top five European leagues.
Let’s see which players impressed in statistics which we decided are important for offensive-minded midfielders.
Raphael Veiga is a 26-year old who plays at Palmeiras and mostly operates in the no.10 position for his club. He is listed at 176cm and predominantly left-footed. Veiga has two consecutive seasons with at least 10 goals in the Brazilian Serie A. He was a crucial part of Palmeiras’ successful run in Copa Libertadores and even managed to give Palmeiras the lead with an early goal in the final against Flamengo.
Given the fact that Veiga’s data is taken based on 4813 minutes, it is quite a representative image of his ability. Based on the data above, it is clear that Veiga is a constant threat to the opposition goal with high efficiency in multiple statistics. He scores high in shots p90, touches in the box p90, non-penalty goals p90, xG p90 & xA p90. Capable of progressing with the ball at his feet and making overloads in the middle, has a high output in progressive runs and dribble success rate.
Veiga likes to operate in the halfspaces as we can see in the image above and can be a threat after receiving the ball in these areas in the opposition half. He is capable of scoring goals by making well-timed runs into the penalty area whether to attack the space behind the defence or to meet a cutback pass in the penalty area. He can finish with both legs, shows composure in front of goal, but also can score from outside the box with powerful left-footed shots. Surely someone who could fit in at a Champions League level club.
Nicolás de la Cruz
Nicolás de la Cruz is a 24-year old versatile midfielder who plays for River Plate. He can play as a no.8 and no.10 but has the pace and mobility to play on the wing. He is listed at 167 cm and is predominantly right-footed. His final output could be better overall since he never scored in double digits in a single season. However, he constantly makes overloads in the final third and manages to create good opportunities for his teammates with quality passing.
We can see that he likes to have the ball in his possession based on the number of passes he has, drifts wide in halfspaces and drops diagonally to receive the ball in the build-up before progressing it further which can be seen based on his passes to the final third p90 and progressive passes p90. He attempts a lot of dribbles and has above average success rate.
He’s one of the best midfielders in South America when it comes to progressing with the ball at his feet since he has good pace and ball control. De la Cruz is capable of creating good situations from deep with penetrative passes, but has an eye for a decisive pass from deep and can chip the ball behind the defence to put a teammate into a goalscoring chance. He still has room to develop when it comes to getting into good opportunities to score & needs to improve his finishing. However, he is already capable to play at the Champions League level.
Jaminton Campaz is a 21-year old Colombian who currently plays at Grêmio. He is naturally a no.10 who is capable of playing as a left-winger. He is listed at 165 cm and is predominantly left-footed. Campaz is a quite creative player who can regularly facilitate for his teammates. He can be labelled as a dribbler because he attempts a lot of dribbles compared to the other midfielders. However, it is also connected with him playing as a winger occasionally. He beats opponents with his agility and pace, hard to mark in 1v1 on wide areas.
Campaz is a volume shooter who likes to attempt long-range shots which are often threatening since he shoots with power and has a good amount of shots on target. We can see on xG and shots that he is a danger for the opposition goal, not only that he often shoots from distance, but he gets into high-quality opportunities in the penalty area.
His passing accuracy is below average compared to the other midfielders, but it is linked to his creative orientation since he constantly looks for advanced solutions in the final third, especially when positioned in the left halfspace. A lot of passes into the penalty area is because Campaz often crosses the ball when drifting wide or playing as a winger. His small frame puts in question which level is his ceiling but seems like someone who could have a future in Europe.
Marcelino Núñez is a 21-year old Chilean international who currently plays at Universidad Catolica. He is naturally no.8 but he is comfortable playing on the right side as a full-back or wide midfielder. He is listed at 173 cm and is predominantly right-footed. Given his quality performances and ability to perform in multiple positions on a good level, it is crucial for him to move into a better league in the near future to develop even more.
Núñez is a dead-ball specialist which is why he has a high amount of shots and xA since he can produce regularly from set-pieces. He has a very good shot from outside with both feet and has the ability to get into promising opportunities which mirror his xG and non-penalty goals. Has the sense to make late runs into the penalty area.
His close control, agility and awareness make him very dangerous after receiving the ball since he can progress quickly towards the opposition’s goal. He can make overloads in the final third because of his directness, however, he needs to improve his efficiency in dribbles. Núñez plays for Chile national team and he is yet to reach his peak meaning he has a lot of room to improve in the future.
Marcelo Allende is a 22-year old Chilean who currently plays at Montevideo City Torque. Allende is classic no.10 who operates behind the striker. He is listed at 168 cm and is predominantly right-footed. As we can see Allende looks fantastic through the data, it seems that he is a creative force for his team. By looking at his heatmap it is clear that he likes to receive the ball and take action in the halfspaces.
His vision is on a high level and can find runners in behind with precise passes behind the defence. Allende scores high in xA, deep completions, shot assists & passes to the penalty area which supports the assessment of his profile. He can dribble through the middle and penetrate towards the opposition goal, however, his success rate in dribbles is below-average.
The area, where Allende needs to improve, is his goalscoring ability. He doesn’t shoot as often as he could given the position he plays and could do a better job converting chances. Allende could make a career in Europe, but his ceiling isn’t high given his goalscoring record and remains questionable whether he will be able to improve in that area in the future.
Matías Esquivel is a 22-year old Argentinian who currently plays at Talleres on loan from Lanus. He is a natural box to box midfielder who can fit in the no.10 role as well due to his offensive tendencies. He is listed at 164 cm and is predominantly left-footed. Esquivel plays with flair and can make a difference with his agility and ball control by making overloads in the final third.
He can progress the ball effectively either by carrying the ball or making a penetrative pass which can be seen on the data profile above. He seems very direct and oriented on making decisive passes in the final third which shows he takes responsibility for making tough passes and creating opportunities. Statistics like xA p90, shot assists p90, deep completions p90 and passes to penalty area p90 represent his creativity very well. His passing accuracy is below average since he tends to make difficult passes and progress the ball towards the opposition goal.
He is a dead-ball specialist and can deliver dangerous crosses which is one of his main creative outputs. It seems that he can get into good chances by making runs into the space when recognises gaps in the opposition defence. However, he needs to do it more constantly to have even more touches in the opposition box and shots on goal. Esquivel looks like a player who has a lot of room to improve, his small frame maybe limits him in coping with physically stronger opponents but he uses his ball control and agility to beat the opponents and avoid duels with quick turns. If he can deliver constant performances and score a few goals more per season he could get a shot in European football.
The above-mentioned players all show qualities that are in demand when looking for offensive-minded midfielders. Some of them seem very good goalscorers from the shadow, some of them are more creative, but all have the potential to constantly impact the scoreline. Giorgian de Arrascaeta is a notable mention and would be on this list, but he will have 28 in June and we opted for some younger options. Thiago Almada made a surprising transfer to MLS side Atlanta United even though he is one of the South American top prospects. The oldest one on the list Raphael Veiga is someone whose ability is already on a very high level and seems like the best player from this list while Núñez has very good potential.