Push Notification



Hugo Guillamón: The home-grown heartbeat of Gattuso’s Valencia midfield – scout report

After moving from the Basque Country to Valencia as a kid, Hugo Guillamón has been at Valencia CF since 2009. Guillamón made his first-team debut off the bench against Real Sociedad in February 2020 and has remained in the Los Che squad since. The last few years have been underwhelming at the Mestalla, with two ninth-placed and a thirteenth-place finish in the last three seasons for a club well-known for their European participation.

With Peter Lim’s ownership, Valencia have made various dubious decisions. In his first summer, Lim sacked manager Juan Antonio Pizzi and replaced him with Nuno Espírito Santo, closely connected to Lim’s friend and super-agent Jorge Mendes. In the following years, fans were concerned with Mendes’ involvement, alongside the unsuccessful managerial spell of Gary Neville. Marcelino managed to bring positivity after securing a return to the  UEFA Champions League football alongside a Copa del Rey victory. However, he was sacked for publicly criticising Lim.

Valencia are well-known for their ability to produce exceptional talent through the academy, such as World Cup winners David Silva and Raúl Albiol. A successful academy has been a requirement for Los Che under Peter Lim, due to the quantity and quality of their sales. Valencia have seen the likes of André Gomes, Paco Alcácer, Dani Parejo and academy superstar Ferran Torres all departing without suitable replacements. Captain José Gayà has been a staple during Peter Lim’s ownership, racking up nearly 300 appearances alongside 17 caps for Spain. Nevertheless, it’s the current crop of youngsters looking to turn the club’s fortunes around, with Hugo Guillamón at the forefront.

Guillamón is at the heart of Valencia’s midfield under former legendary midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. After Los Che’s Copa del Rey final appearance last season under José Bordalás, the Italian manager has shown promising signs so far. With the youngest squad in Europe’s top five leagues, weighted by minutes played, Valencia have won three and lost three of their first six La Liga matches this season. Guillamón has managed three assists already, earning another call-up to join Luis Enrique’s Spanish national team.

This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will look at Hugo Guillamón’s role at Valencia and identify the qualities that could convince Luis Enrique to select the 22-year-old for the World Cup in the winter.

Player profile

Hugo Guillamón (182cm/6’0”, 65kg/143lbs) is a versatile right-footed player, currently being deployed as the pivot in Gennaro Gattuso’s Valencia team. The Spaniard is the metronome in the Los Che midfield, completing the most passes in the Valencia squad. His security and composure in possession suit Gattuso’s ball-dominant approach. However, Guillamón was originally a centre-back, and his transition to midfield has not been perfectly smooth.

The 22-year-old broke into the Valencia first-team as a centre-back, replacing former Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala to make his debut. Barring the occasional appearance in a double pivot, Guillamón’s youth career was spent at the heart of defences for Valencia and Spain. Guillamón has registered over 50 caps at youth level for La Furia Roja. His first full season in the Los Che first-team was as a centre-back for Javi Gracia and then his interim successor Voro. However, this soon changed under Josê Bordalás, as the former Getafe manager brought the Spaniard into midfield.


Although Bordalás also relied on Guillamón to fill in at centre-back, the Valencia star was largely deployed in the double six, 4-4-2 associated with Bordalás. The set-up is very organised, designed to control space with lots of aggression. In possession, they were direct with Bordalás wanting to get the ball forwards quickly. This approach is quite different from what Gattuso is aiming to develop at Mestalla.

The figure above displays Guillamón’s heatmap so far in this La Liga season. Under Gattuso, Guillamón is the pivot player in Valencia’s 4-3-3. Since Carlos Soler’s €18m transfer to PSG, another academy departure, the holding midfielder has played alongside four different ‘eights’. USMNT midfielder Yunus Musah looks to enter the final third, Barcelona loanee Nico González is technically secure to contribute to all phases, RB Leipzig loanee Ilaix Moriba is a strong dueller, and new arrival André Almeida, from Portuguese side Vitória de Guimâraes, is a brilliant dribbler with an eye for a pass.


The image above is an example to show Guillamón’s general positioning as a single pivot. Valencia’s full-backs are heavily involved in possession, with their five full-back options currently ranking in the top nine passers in the squad per 90 this season, despite the small sample size. As a result, Guillamón frequently combines and receives from the full-backs. In the example above, Guillamón has remained behind the Atlético Madrid first line to receive the inside pass from right-back Thierry Correia in space. This draws out Atléti midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia with captain Koke also moving wide, allowing Musah to receive a nice first-time pass from Guillamón. Enabling Musah to have the freedom to carry possession and advance to receive progressive passes is a crucial dynamic for Hugo Guillamón’s role and Valencia’s charge for European football this season.

Despite his impressive performances as Valencia’s pivot, Spain manager Luis Enrique seems to class Guillamón as a centre-back. With Sergio Busquets continuing to be an indispensable figure for Enrique at the age of 34, Manchester City’s fulcrum Rodri remains the backup option. Real Sociedad’s Martín Zubimendi is more than worthy of playing as Enrique’s pivot, so the media have viewed that Guillamón has been selected ahead of him. But with Busquets and Rodri in the way, the Valencia midfielder’s minutes in the Span midfield look limited.

As a result, Enrique has selected him as a centre-back, with his two Spanish caps so far coming in this position. With Aymeric Laporte currently injured and considering Enrique’s faith in Eric García and Pau Torres, Hugo Guillamón’s selection has come ahead of Sergio Ramos, a key starter at PSG. With Luis Enrique valuing national team performance and suitability for his team, Guillamón looks to have impressed in previous call-ups with the World Cup upcoming.

In possession

Hugo Guillamón is an essential element in Gennaro Gattuso’s system at Valencia. As the pivot player, he links the defence to the midfield and applies his assured technique to progress possession with risk. Guillamón has completed 55.85 passes per 90 so far this season, with 86.45% accuracy. Valencia rank 2nd for average possession in La Liga with 61.6%, and Guillamón’s passing ability is central to Gattuso’s tactical upheaval from Josê Bordalás’ direct and defensive approach. He is not quite as accurate as La Liga’s other high-volume passers, but his understanding and familiarity of this new role and style will increase alongside his passing efficiency.

Despite his development as a centre-back, the Spaniard rarely drops back to split the centre-backs when deployed as Gattuso’s pivot. Under Bordalás, Guillamón occasionally dropped into a wider centre-back position to facilitate the full-back advancing and providing width. For Gattuso’s team, Guillamón is generally positioned behind the first line of the opposition.


The image above is an example of the 22-year-old’s positioning during Valencia’s build-up from goal kicks. Against Andoni Iraola’s Rayo Vallecano at Vallecas, a fixture many La Liga sides struggle with, the home side were causing all sorts of trouble with their high pressing. Gattuso set Los Che up with a 3vs2 against the Rayo Vallecano pressing front two. However, the narrow positioning of Valencia’s centre-backs, Gabriel Paulista and Mouctar Diakhaby, meant Rayo’s front two could easily close them down and prevent passes into Guillamón, neutralising the +1 numerical superiority.

To overcome this issue, Guillamón assumed increased responsibility and risk-taking by demanding possession when under pressure. As the lack of spacing between the centre-backs caused problems for creating passing angles to the full-backs and central midfielders, Guillamón would willingly receive under pressure and play a wall pass to force the centre-backs wider. With centre-backs in wider positions, they had increased time on the ball and better access to Guillamón. The midfielder’s movement to receive these passes also attracted pressure from Santi Comesaña, creating gaps in the Rayo midfield that Valencia could potentially penetrate.

One of Guillamón’s weaknesses is his left foot. The Spaniard is willing to use it when required, but these passes are typically much less accurate with less pace. From the image above against Rayo, his off the ball movement has drawn out Comesaña and forced winger Isi Palazón to invert for central compactness. This has enlarged the space for Valencia left-back José Gayà to receive, and a player more confident and able to play that pass with their left-foot out to Gayà would’ve likely broken through the Rayo press. Nevertheless, Guillamón’s ability to disguise his actions and deceive opponents helps to subdue his left-footed inconsistency.


Hugo Guillamón possesses a level of deceitfulness that would not be expected from a centre-back’s development. His no-touch turns and body feints help create separation well for a player without gifted dribbling and quickness. Normally, these would assist Guillamón’s ball retention rather than progression, whereas his passing disguise can provide the progression and penetration.

In the image above against Celta Vigo, the Spanish international receives a pass from left winger Samuel Lino. Letting the ball roll across his body, Guillamón has dragged Renato Tapia ahead of Celta’s defensive line. Guillamón fakes to play a first-time pass into André Almeida, manipulating Celta youngster Gabri Veiga to cut the passing lane but opening the pass into Justin Kluivert between the lines. Guillamón zips the ball into Kluivert’s feet, allowing the Dutchman to turn at the Celta defence.

Out of the 55 central midfielders to play over 300 La Liga minutes so far this season, Guillamón ranks 5th for forward passes per 90 with 18.17. His 9.42 passes into the final third per 90 ranks 9th, with his 8.24 progressive passes per 90 ranking 10th out of the 55 midfielders.


From the pass map above, we can see Guillamón’s ability to spread play into the wide areas, alongside his aforementioned ball reception from the wide players. There is a cluster of right-to-left passes from Guillamón to enter the Valencia final third. The 22-year-old ranks 2nd out of the 55 midfielders for long passes with 7.23 per 90 and 67.44% accuracy. The image below is an example of the Spaniard’s right-to-left passes, assisting Toni Lato’s brilliant opener in Los Che’s 5-1 victory over Getafe.


With Musah managing to retain possession on the right wing, Valencia attempt to create a wide overload but Getafe also commit numbers to prevent the overload. Musah displays excellent ball manipulation in tight areas to create the passing lane into Guillamón, who has provided support as a relay player rather than being drawn into the wide area. Hugo Guillamón’s astute decision-making to be a relay player has provided balance and allowed retain possession and switch the point of attack. The Spanish international switches play quickly to maximise effectiveness and isolate Toni Lato 1vs1, to beat his man and cut inside to score. The benefit of a relay player can also be seen in deeper phases, with an example of this shown earlier against Atlético Madrid.

Out of possession

Transitioning from a centre-back to a defensive midfielder under José Bordalás has masked some of Hugo Guillamón’s defensive deficiencies. The perceived requirement for a centre-back to be physically imposing, something that Guillamón is not, is less necessary for a pivot player. As a centre-back, the Spanish international could be exploited physically and aerially. There are similarities to the widely discussed case of Eric García, a favourite of Luis Enrique, who provides masterful distribution from centre-back but can be suspect defensively. However, Guillamón has developed this, albeit via a position change. Gennaro Gattuso’s pivot player has won 2.52 aerial duels per 90 so far this season with a win rate of 53.33%.


Guillamón’s effectiveness out of possession improved massively under Bordalás and the former Getafe manager’s defensive approach. His time with Bordalás saw the Spanish international enhance his aggressive intensity and duelling, whilst also rectifying concentration difficulties due to Bordalás’ fierce and organised approach. The transition into midfield is also better suited to Guillamón’s tendency to jump and pressure the ball-carrying. He can also cover large spaces in the midfield quite well, as opposed to his speed issues when covering large spaces behind the defensive line. These qualities have tried to be employed more under Gattuso’s high pressing style, with Valencia’s 6.58 PPDA the most intense press in La Liga.

As a result, Guillamón has been able to utilise his defensive awareness and recent developments to become a crucial component in Valencia’s pressing, defensive transitions, and overall out-of-possession work. The Spanish international’s 8.52 PAdj interceptions ranks 7th out of the 55 central midfielders to play over 300 minutes in La Liga so far this season. The Valencia academy product has registered significantly more high regains and counterpressing recoveries than other quality La Liga pivot players like Real Madrid star Aurélien Tchouaméni, Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets and Real Sociedad’s Martín Zubimendi.


Without Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte, Spain have problems at centre-back. In the recent 2-1 home loss to Switzerland, the centre-back pairing of Eric García and Pau Torres have comparable profiles, thus similar weaknesses to be targeted. However, these are the types of centre-backs that Luis Enrique wants for La Furia Roja, with Diego Llorente and Hugo Guillamón of a similar ilk.

Guillamón’s tendency to jump out of the defensive line to contest duels can be exploited due to his slight physicality. This has been seen multiple times already in his short career with the Spanish national team as a centre-back.

In the example below, Guillamón has attempted to get in front of Iceland striker Jón Daði Böðvarsson, but the Bolton Wanderers man was able to use his superior strength to roll past Guillamón before retaining possession well.



After years of underwhelming performances and off-pitch issues, Valencia look to be showing signs of promise. Gennaro Gattuso is looking to build on last season’s Copa del Rey final appearance with the youngest squad in Europe’s top five leagues. Hugo Guillamón, alongside other academy talents and young arrivals in the summer, is thriving in the Italian manager’s possession-heavy, ball-dominant tactics.

Transitioning from a centre-back into a pivot player, Guillamón is the midfield metronome at the Mestalla. Able to flex his composed ball-playing ability, the 22-year-old is linking Los Che with his braveness to receive under pressure and deceive the opposition. Defensively, his game has improved in a role better suited to his attributes and all-round play. Without Guillamón, the Valencia squad lacks the pivot player needed for Gattuso.

Despite his youth development as a centre-back, Guillamón never quite displayed his maximum potential in defence at senior level. In a position where Valencia now have depth, Guillamón’s midfield transition may have created a pathway for the next great youth talents out of Mestalla, with 18-year-old Cristhian Mosquera part of the first-team squad and left-footed 17-year-old Yarek Gasiorowski being a potential world-class centre-back.

However, Guillamón’s selections for Luis Enrique’s Spanish national team have been to play as a centre-back. With Sergio Busquets and Rodri the main options for Enrique’s pivot role, the former Barcelona manager views the Valencia star as a centre-back choice. Guillamón is not the strongest defender but fits the profile Enrique is looking for, and with his added versatility, could be a potential inclusion in Spain’s World Cup squad with the extension to 26 players.

In this tactical analysis, we have looked at Hugo Guillamón’s ability as Valencia’s pivot player alongside discussing his potential suitability for Luis Enrique’s Spanish national team tactics.