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Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

Pablo Barrios 2022/23: Atlético Madrid’s wonderkid learning his trade under Fernando Torres and Diego Simeone – scout report

Atlético Madrid’s newest shining star, Pablo Barrios, has made it to the first squad. After a long streak of talent discovery, Atlético has found a gem. Atlético Madrid, unlike Barcelona, has spent so many years at the top of Spanish soccer despite never being the team to discover a star player from its academy.

Pablo Barrios, at 19 years old and 136 days old, made headlines on October 29, 2022, when he played 162 minutes in his team’s competitive debut against Cádiz. He has started four of their 16 games and has only been used as a substitute twice. He has shown up in times of crisis and served as a unifying force for the squad. Barrios is a youth international who has played for Spain at the U19 level.

From playing under Fernando Torres to cracking Diego Simeone’s starting eleven, this scout report covers it all. In this tactical analysis, we’ll assess his abilities and forecast how much of an impact he can have on the game he’s playing in.

Player profile

Barrios is a brilliant midfielder who is fundamentally oriented on producing offensive plays. As a Spaniard, a midfielder has no justification for making mistakes. To put it simply, things are the way they are. The former Real Madrid star has been blowing away Diego Simeone and Atletico B’s coach Fernando Torres recently.

Barrios, Atlético Madrid’s 19-year-old offensive midfielder, is quickly rising to prominence. The teenage forward has started the last five games for Atleti and scored in their Copa del Rey match against Real Oviedo.

Barrios played youth soccer with Moratalaz before moving on to Real Madrid’s academy and eventually signing for Atlético Madrid in 2017. After making his way through the Atlético Madrid youth system, he began his professional career with the reserve squad in January 2022. He signed his first professional contract with the team on March 3, 2022, and it runs until 2025.

After playing 64 minutes in Atlético Madrid’s 1-0 loss to Barcelona on January 8, Barrios hasn’t seen the field since. His record currently includes one caution. With 28 points, Atlético is currently in fourth position in La Liga and will host Valladolid on January 21.

After just 12 league appearances and a single goal for Atlético Madrid II, Barrios was promoted to the main squad in July 2022. It’s quite a jump considering he didn’t play a single minute for Atlético Madrid in the Primera División the previous season.

Exquisite playmaking

His style of play is reminiscent of a Spanish midfielder, Pablo Gavi, a rising star for Barcelona. The midfielder consistently moves the ball into the attacking third and contributes to the team’s success.

Barrios takes on the role of lone pivot during the match against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Youth League. Within the specified three, he makes his move below.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

He anticipates his opponent’s moves, giving him the upper hand while he formulates a plot to evade the press. He’s quite difficult to dispossess because of his on-ball skills and his ability to use feints to throw off the press.

He moves from the left to the right side of the field early in the game to participate in the combo plays. As can be seen in the picture below, he crosses the field in search of a gap between the three highlighted opponents.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

He lofts a first-time into the air to the sprinting forward, who pounces on the ball just before Barrios can send it his way. Nearly seven Dortmund players are taken out by a well-timed first-time pass. The forward’s feet were completely unaffected by this lofted ball.

Barrios maintained his cool and poise against Real Madrid in the derby encounter of the same tournament in the 74th minute, as shown in the image below. As soon as he feels pressure, he looks over his shoulder to see where he can make a pass.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

The Real number 31 had little chance of beating Barrios to the knocked-deflected ball outside the area. Aware of when and where the defence would be, he would politely go past them.

His level of insight is remarkable for someone of his early age. Even though young players have generally performed well for all clubs, he is one of the elites in Spain.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

In the top image, you can see a wing runner bursting the defensive line, and he slips a measure past him. He plays strictly inside the designated playing area and smacks in the centre of the channel where he has plenty of opportunity to move about.

He had a very nasty game against Elche, which was one of his best. He shined brightly in the face of adversity and put a lot of things in motion. As no one on Elche was able to strip the ball from the kid, he was able to break through their pressing barrier. He made no pretences and headed straight for the openings.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

Every time he ran around the pitch, he’d draw more and more pressure from the opposition. The red arrows above demonstrate how Barrios uses a gentle feint to disorient his opponent and send him tumbling to the ground.

We have seen remarkable growth in him over the last 12 months, and the next 12 months will be critical to his development. To wrap this section up, there is little question that Spain will continue to be a consistent source of brilliant playmakers.

Defensive awareness

Due to his incessant running, he dominates play in every facet of the field. He uses up all his might being on the go so that he and everyone around him are safe. Atlético gains an advantage because of a ludicrous pressing tactic that can be started in a hurry.

Atlético’s pressing strategy has changed drastically since Barrios was brought in. There is a major difference between the two in terms of approach and intensity.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

Within the last moments of the game against Cádiz, Barrios made a beeline towards the defender seen above collecting the ball. Instinctively understanding when to slow down and rest allows him to rush right to his feet.

Cádiz’s midfielder would chase following two separate presses after receiving the ball back after he had passed. As the defender panicked and cleared the ball, his immediate effort paid off.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

Barrios’s greatest brilliance lies in his proper positioning and stances. Realising his teammates are nearby to check on the duel, the guy in the top image assumes a position that allows him to respond quickly and effectively to any developing situation. His defensive agility was on display as he half-sat in anticipation of a pounce following a wayward touch.

Not so long ago, we got to see Gavi and Barrios go at it, and it was a blast. This pair of players further demonstrates the high calibre of Spanish midfielders.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

He started and played well in the action against a red-hot Barcelona team. It’s clear he stayed with Gavi the whole time, from before he ever touched the ball until well after he had scored. The distance between left defender Reinildo Mandava and forward Ousmane Dembélé is indicative of the tempo at which the team plays.

However, the team’s defensive tactics now have a tiny edge thanks to his stubbornness to go it alone and have the rest of the players match his speed. Because of his eagerness to steal the spotlight from other up-and-coming players on the greatest stages, El Cholo has almost certainly decided to make him a starter.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

Barrios was a good fit for Spain’s pressing and defending high strategy in the U-19 UEFA Championship Qualifying match against Denmark. The defensive midfielder, oblivious to his surroundings, is surprised when he is snuck up from behind. Barrios decides to commit without being explicit about it, and this turns out well. He’s successful in the press, and now the counterattack has begun.

You can confidently state that his defensive skills are commensurate with those of a ball-playing midfielder. Barrios seems to be a perfect fit for any manager seeking a high-energy midfielder with some Spanish flare.

An eye on his offensive potential

In addition to his playmaking skills, Barrios’ vision to go into defenders’ shoulders and threaten the space in behind is something to watch for. Atlético should be delighted for his willingness to attack the depth and run forward.

As a side that likes to sit back and rely primarily on counter-attacks, Barrios has given Simeone food for thought in terms of how and what to reorganise. In the accompanying image, you can see how Barrios exploits a gap he identifies between Elche’s left central defender and the full-back, setting up a penetration by João Félix.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

He correctly places the ball at Félix’s feet and watches as Antoine Griezmann squanders a golden chance in the next seconds. His constant presence as a threat throughout offensive phases has resulted in several easy-scoring opportunities.

Barrios was the only player in the middle of the field who consistently opened up passing lanes to the attacking third in the game with the Catalans. Barrios’s addition improved the effectiveness of the midfield, which had been underutilised by Simeone due to his preference for playing the wingers well wide to the line.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

He’s like a more vibrant version of Saul Niguez or another midfielder who Simeone’s inconsistency prevented them from starting. Right now, he seems to be in a period of reflection during which he has opted to keep it unchanged in the lineup.

His enthusiasm and forward momentum on the horse is essential to an aggressive squad. A team with Simeone’s mentality is all they need, given the aggressive style he likes to play with.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

Barrios, having been passed from behind, has rapidly risen above the other half of the squad and is now rushing to provide potential assistance within the next few seconds. The young player’s primary objective was to get involved in the left space in the centre of the field, and he took advantage of the enormous gap left by Elche’s press.

For a player occupying a deep midfield position, he has made an impressive amount of forward passes across all competitions this year. Although he has only attempted a few shots from within the box, he has gone rather often when attempting shots from beyond the box, which is encouraging.

Pablo Barrios for Atlético Madrid 2022/23: scout report

These are the kinds of stats that might finally bring about change for a player on a team like Atlético. It’s unfortunate for the Spanish club that they waited so long to play a player of Barrios’ calibre.

When it came to premier midfielders, no one could stop Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta when they were at the top of their games. They both dominated the world with just their wits and were impeccable. Barrios, who has many of the greats’ qualities, will break new ground for a languishing Atlético and national team.

Conclusion

It’s a piece of cake for Spain to brew up magical midfielders. If Barrios continues to wow everyone at Atlético, he will join that exclusive group. Comparisons to Koke’s heritage are the highest praise the kid could get.

Speculations have been rampant regarding Simeone’s impending exit from Atlético following a lengthy stint in charge. His departure would cause significant shifts for the stagnant Atlético squad, which has struggled with inconsistency all season. This might be Atlético’s greatest discovery in years after Real Madrid’s let go from their youth system.

After Pedri and Gavi were comfortably named to the starting lineup, Spain finally had a formidable pairing in the middle of the field. Barrios may find a comfortable middle ground between both, with Sergio Busquets waiting in the wings for his end. Therefore, given his ability to attack and defend, Barrios would experiment extensively in a variety of contexts as discussed in the analysis.