Federico Redondo: The Argentine pivot who could be the heir to Sergio Busquets’ throne – scout report
While City were the greatest evolution of Pep’s tactics, his Barcelona side at the beginning of the previous decade were revolutionary and are often deemed to be the best side to ever play this beautiful sport.
One of the key cogs to that immortal side was Sergio Busquets. While Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, David Villa and Xavi Hernández earned all the plaudits, El Pulpo was the glue that held La Blaugrana together and is often regarded as the greatest lone ‘6’ of all time.
Busquets recently announced his departure from the Catalan giants after close to two decades with the club where he won practically every competition for club and country apart from the UEFA Europa League.
The 34-year-old is now the very last member of the infamous 2011 squad to leave the five-time European champions and Barcelona may have an incredibly difficult time replacing their midfield anchor.
However, there is one player out there who may be worth taking a chance on, a controller in the middle of the park who is currently learning from two of Busquets’ former Barcelona teammates – Javier Mascherano and Gabriel Milito. That player is Federico Redondo.
Those of a certain age demographic will remember Fede’s father, Fernando Redondo, a former three-time European champion with Real Madrid and Milan. Well, it turns out that Fernando has a talented son who is already being linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs and, of course, given the need for a new number ‘6’, Barca are among these supposed suitors.
This scout report will be a tactical analysis of Redondo’s style of play, as well as his strengths, weaknesses and his role within the tactics of the Liga Profesional side Argentinos Juniors but we shall also compare the technically-gifted Argentine’s data with Busquets to see if he can truly fill the Spaniard’s large boots.
While we don’t want to make this entire analysis piece about Busquets and continuously putting such a young talent on the same projection as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, the comparison with regard to each player’s physical build is stark.
Redondo is 6’2”, or approximately 188cm, according to Wyscout, while also weighing in at 75kg, or 165lbs. In contrast, Busquets is 189cm in height and just under 170lbs in weight.
When coming through the academy system, there were some critics of Guardiola who believed the future genius was making a mistake by deploying Busquets in the number ‘6’ position over someone like Yaya Touré. From a physical standpoint, there was no comparison between the duo. Busquets looked dainty and had skinny legs, with what looked like little upper body strength.
These observations weren’t necessarily wrong, but they didn’t hold Busquets back at all. In fact, Busquets became the player he did in spite of these deficiencies.
Why is this relevant? Well, Redondo looks eerily similar in terms of stature to Busquets. If you squinted while watching the 20-year-old, you may even struggle to tell the difference.
The average positioning of the two men is slightly different too. The reason for this is that Argentinos Juniors boss Milito prefers to deploy a 3-4-2-1 with a double-pivot in midfield. Redondo normally operates on the right. However, Busquets has almost exclusively played as a lone pivot and so his heatmap shows a lot more action in the central areas.
Nevertheless, Redondo certainly can play as a single pivot and has done so in the past, but has primarily played on the right of a two.
Now that we’ve discussed Redondo’s position on the football pitch and his role under Milito, let’s deep-dive into his role in and out of possession.
An elite scanner
Redondo is a truly scintillating player in possession. When you watch Argentinos Juniors, it seems as though everything comes through him. His body orientation is almost always perfect and one of the reasons for this is how many times the midfielder scans his surroundings before receiving the ball.
Arsène Wenger once famously said: “What is interesting is that very good players scan six to eight times in the 10 seconds before getting the ball and normal ones three to four times.”
Redondo fits into the first category. Scanning is vital to help take in information. There is often a cliché in coaching where coaches compare receiving the ball to crossing a road. You wouldn’t cross the road without looking left and right, would you?
Here, Redondo is looking to receive from the player in possession. Redondo scanned twice in one second to take in the information around him before realising that the best course of action was to play a simple first-time pass to his left centre-back.
The option was there to make a line-breaking ball through the lines into his teammate who had popped up in some space but the Argentine isn’t as comfortable on his weaker left foot and so decided to play it safe in order to keep possession ticking.
Nevertheless, the point is that prior to receiving, he had already scanned countless times and knew exactly where his teammates where and how close the distance to the opposition’s players was, allowing him to make the correct decision in the end.
Redondo is a very intelligent player and rarely makes the wrong choice on the ball or when receiving it. Even when the pass may not be perfect, or far from it for that matter, the Argentinos Junior pivot will deal with the situation at hand and his constant scanning allows him to choose wisely.
Here, the defender plays what we’d call a ‘hospital’ pass. For those that are unaware of the term, a hospital pass is when a player makes a pass which puts the receiver in danger of losing the ball or being tackled.
In the previous scenario, Redondo initially had an open body shape, hoping to receive the ball on his right foot which would have provided him with the ability to turn out and drive forward. However, the ball is played to Redondo’s weaker left foot and is bobbling on the ground as it comes towards him. The midfielder has scanned and knows that the opponent’s number ‘9’ is behind him waiting to pounce and so quickly shifts his body to deal with the circumstance of the pass, safely guiding it back to the goalkeeper and maintaining possession for Milito’s side.
Redondo is vital for playing behind the opposition pressure. The 20-year-old is wonderful at finding space behind the opposition’s first line.
Here, Redondo was picked out behind the opponent’s first line of pressure and his body position allowed him to receive on the turn, driving forward up the pitch to progress play for Argentinos Juniors. He knew there was no pressure behind him due to his incessant scanning and the end result was swift ball progression from the build-up phase to the middle third of the pitch.
He is also very demanding for such a young player. Redondo knows the talent he possesses and doesn’t hide in games or shy away from receiving under pressure.
In this instance, Redondo sees that the Newell’s Old Boys midfielder is getting ready to step out of the second line to press him, anticipating the young man receiving possession. Redondo imminently ordered his near-sided winger to drop into the space behind the opposition’s midfielder.
Once Redondo received possession, he slipped it in behind the NOB pressor into the path of his winger who listened to his instructions. This level of commandeering and intelligence on the football pitch at 20 years old is genuinely insane!
This sequence also showcased Redondo’s ability to change the tempo of the match with a single pass. In fact, this is something that the Argentine does during games which is particularly resemblant of Busquets.
Redondo loves to make reverse passes during games to trick the opposition into believing a pass is going to a certain area of the field but instead, he plays it to another.
Here, the Liverpool Montevideo winger believed the ball was being passed out to the right flank and so began trotting out accordingly. Instead, Redondo slipped it inside, breaking through the opponent’s first line of pressure and progressing through the central lanes. This all came about simply by using his body orientation to his benefit.
Busquets became famous for these types of passes, making opponents look silly at times. There’s no doubt that the Barcelona faithful would be impressed with the Argentine’s resemblance to their beloved El Pulpo in this respect.
That being said, Busquets is a far better ball progressor. Of course, this is expected as he’s a better player at this moment in time. However, Redondo has a tendency to play safe when a forward or line-breaking pass is on. From the midfielder’s 50.77 passes per 90 on average, 27 percent are forward, the rest are lateral and backwards.
It’s an area of the youngster’s game he can work on in time, especially if playing under the guidance of an elite possession-oriented coach.
Excellent defensive positioning
Like Busquets, Redondo isn’t that quick and so his tactical intelligence and positional awareness need to be good enough so that this is masked. Fortunately for Redondo, his defensive nous is superb.
The reasons why Redondo is so astute out of possession are exactly the same as in-possession: his ability to scan his surroundings and his leadership.
From the 20-year-old’s defensive territory map, we can see how many defensive actions and interceptions he has made this season with Argentinos Juniors in all competitions.
One area Redondo needs to desperately improve is his continuous fouling of the opposition. This season, the youngster has committed an average of 1.54 fouls per 90. That being said, very few were inside the Argentinos Juniors half, which tells us that Redondo protects his defensive half very well – the hallmark of a truly great player.
Nonetheless, due to Redondo’s constant scanning, he has excellent reading of the game. Redondo knows exactly where the opposition’s players are, where they want to play the ball, how much space is around him and what the next move will be.
Here, Argentinos Junior were defending in a mid-to-low block. The Corinthians player that Redondo was marking had drifted out to the wide areas, hoping to drag Redondo out of position which would have opened up a passing lane into the feet of the number ‘9’.
Redondo didn’t fall for this trap. He knew the repercussions of falling for such a move. Instead, he told one of the centre-backs to step up and take him. In the previous screenshot, we can see Redondo pointing to the player, demanding that the defender steps up.
And, of course, he was right. The centre-back stepped up, taking over the marking responsibilities and Redondo held his post in the midfield, blocking any passing lane into the forward line while also moving closer to the Corinthians pivot player in case the ball was played into him.
It’s this quick thinking of tactical awareness that makes Redondo stand out as such a gifted talent. While he doesn’t play as a lone pivot in Argentina, he has all the attributes to do so.
Redondo is also pretty solid in a number of defensive attributes. The midfielder has won 67 percent of his 7.77 defensive duels per 90 while also averaging 2.74 interceptions per 90, 0.95 clearances per 90 and 9.06 ball recoveries per 90.
Where Redondo struggles the most, though, is during defensive transitions. He’s not quick at all, and so if the opposition break through Argentinos Junior’s counterpressing, Redondo’s side are in a world of trouble.
In this scenario, Liverpool Montevideo had regained possession in their own third and began a swift counterattack. Redondo had been caught high up the pitch due to his positioning, and in a foot race with his opposite number, he never got close.
The chance didn’t end in a goal but it’s important to highlight his lack of speed as it’s certainly his weakest area. Unfortunately, he can’t exactly get faster. However, playing in a slightly deeper role as a lone pivot may help mask this weakness.
Data comparison with Busquets
When asked about the departure of Busquets from the Camp Nou, manager Xavi responded by claiming that replacing the club legend was “essential”. Strong words from his former teammate.
It’s hard to disagree with the head coach. Busquets has been an integral part of Barcelona’s setup for almost 15 years. Replacing him won’t be easy. Could Redondo be the man to fill his shoes?
Busquets is better in most metrics when we compare the two players’ data, although, this was to be expected. Redondo excels in several stats than Busquets but this is primarily because he plays in a two-man midfield with more license to get forward.
However, Redondo is actual relatively close to Busquets in a lot of other metrics apart from aerial duels, positioning, dangerous passes and accurate passes.
There is a still long way to go before Redondo’s ability can be compared with the all-time great but the data is encouraging.
And the transition from the Liga Profesional to La Liga may be quite comfortable for the midfielder should he be pinched by Barcelona – both are Spanish-speaking countries and both are relatively comparable with regard to the tempo of the game.
Being coached by Gabriel Milito at club level and Javier Mascherano at international level, two former teammates of the Barcelona head coach, we’d be shocked if Xavi wasn’t already aware of Redondo and his capabilities.
Redondo clearly has talent in abundance. In and out of possession, he stands out. His leadership on the pitch at 20 is fascinating to watch and his ability to make his side tick on the ball is one of life’s joys.
The son of Fernando could follow in the footsteps of his father, making the jump to La Liga from Argentinos Juniors at a very young age – although his dad may not like the colours he ends up wearing.
Nonetheless, even if La Blaugrana don’t come in for Redondo, someone else will. One man’s loss is another man’s gain. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the 20-year-old in a top European league come August.