Scouting is an art, not a science, and sometimes there simply isn't enough data to use principals of analytics to separate your Biro Biro's (who we profiled here) from your Gyasi Zardes' (perhaps a low blow, but I can't think of a player who better demonstrates my point, as all underlying predictive data of value in 2014 indicated that his numbers were unsustainable).
Despite a lack of data for countries like Colombia and Argentina, some of the best young talent in South America can be found there, which leaves it up to good ol' fashion eyeball scouting to dig up these gems.
It's a high risk, high reward game, but in many ways, that's what makes it fun. This brings us to our next player in our South American scouting series.
Jean Carlos Blanco
Position: Second Striker/CAM/RW
League Categoría Primera A (Colombia)
Club: CD La Equidad
*note: This video is exceptionally poorly put together with the least interesting scouting element to the player (his goals) front loaded and replayed ad nauseam to the point that it takes 9 whole minutes before the interesting stuff starts to happen. For our purposes, jump to that point.
What the tape says:
Approximately 9 minutes and 3 iterations of "Eye of the Tiger" in, we start to see what Jean Carlos Blanco is made of— A player with a creative mind and deft passing touch.
The sequence that begins at 10:47 is especially beautiful as it displays Blanco's ability to use his close ball control to work his way out of ball pressure, all the while maintaining keen field awareness, first playing it back to re-position, then playing a one-two inside as he jets into space with full awareness of the field and the space out wide where he ultimately spreads it before continuing his run.
The sequence at 10:07 is equally impressive. He picks up the ball on the turnover and immediately begins his assault, knowing where everyone is on the field. He plays a ball to a midfielder to open up inside space for him to cut inside to, and the midfielder immediately returns it to him. From there, Blanco doesn't hesitate. He cuts diagonally across the field, daring the center backs to step up, all the while looking for a gap to play a ball through to an attacker, which he eventually does with perfect weight.
And then you have balls like 11:28 (one time through ball) and 9:56 (perfectly weighted, extremely long through ball) and the one at 13:58, which further emphasize the finesse of his passing. Perhaps mostly impressively, these passes are coming from his left and right foot.
His versatility shines through in more ways than one. We see him at times playing as an inverted right midfielder. Other times we see him as CAM, where his field orchestrations are on full display. Finally, as a secondary striker, we see him combine his creative prowess with his ability to read space and make dangerous attacking runs.
The video ends with a sequence at 17:20 where we get to see Blanco in a flat out sprint for the ball. The speed is impressive.
What the video doesn't show, but is apparent if you scout his actually games, is that Blanco is quite the dead ball specialist, which is an invaluable specialty in a physical league like MLS where targets are abound.
What the stats say:
Here is where it gets tricky. Really good predictive stats are hard to come by in certain leagues, and Colombia's is certainly one of them. With that said, he's tallied an impressive 0.83 Goals + Assists per 90 minutes in the 14/15 seasons. For reference, in MLS that would put him above Bradley Wright-Phillips and Cyle Larin, and just about equal with David Villa.
Putting it all together:
Without the aid of advanced stats, it's hard to tell just how good Jean Carlos Blanco is, however, I have taken the liberty of scouting a two games he's played in and the skills on display in the video are all there. Blanco is a player with excellent ball control, is calm under pressure, has tremendous vision and field awareness, great passing ability, has a good bit of speed, and is incredibly versatile in his positioning.
While more scouting is certainly needed, the peak window for snatching him up is fast approaching. In January of 2015, he was transferred at a fee of $270,000. After such a great season, his stock has likely climbed, but it is unlikely that it has exceeded DP buy down range which reasonably caps around $800,000. He's still a bargain buy.
Thoughts on Jean Carlos Blanco? Think he's worth the risk? What clubs do you see him fitting on? Sound off below.