The next player in our series may very well end up being the best, however, I have been debating whether or not to include him on the list because it's unclear just how much interest this kid is getting from Europe already. Given his numbers, skill set and age, it's not a stretch to think that he's already at a price point too high for most MLS buyers. Never the less, I've decided to include him anyway because I still think there is an outside possibility of a larger MLS team putting down big money for this up and coming star. So, with out further ado, I give you
Giovani Lo Celso
Leauge: Primera División (Argentina)
Team: C.A. Rosario Central
What the eyes tell us:
The video tells the story of a player with passing skills, vision and creativity well beyond his years.
When scouting playmakers, it's important to look at a players willingness and ability to play through balls. Throughout this series, you'll probably notice I have a bit of a through ball obsession, but there is a reason for that. Through balls are especially important in the analytics world because they are converted at a very high rate. When you watch the video, you see Lo Celso play a lot of them.
Perhaps my favorite comes at 3:14. We see Giovani cut inside from the left, distracting the center backs as each of them contemplates stepping up, allowing from a run to slip in on the opposite side. Giovani plays an absolute peach of pass between the two center backs, hitting the runner in stride.
Giovani doesn't just show an ability to play these types of passes on the ground. He is also especially good at chipping them over back lines, which is nearly impossible to defend. 35 seconds in, he plays a great chip over the back line, reading the run beautifully. It's ridiculous skill to see in a 19 year old, and we see it again at 1:19, 6:36 and 8:13.
At 2:18, we see his ability to pick up the ball in deep positions and hit long diagonals to players on the run. At 5:49, he hits an even more ridiculous long ball.
Giovani is also a player who works for his touches, which is a skill in a playmaker that translates to more possession for the team, more touches for the player, and thus more influence on the game. It's something you don't see a lot in players his age as it takes an acute understanding of the game, but it's certainly something you see Giovani. Watch him check back for the ball at 7:27 in order to relieve pressure, then run across the field and show for the ball at the opposite end.
And then there are moments where Giovani's decisions on the ball and understanding of the game make you question whether he's 19 or 30. Look no further than the read and one touch layoff he makes at 6:20 to recognize the possibility for a quick return, when most young player would look to take a touch and have a strike. The composure he shows to hold onto the ball and find a runner at 8:53 is also well beyond his years. Perhaps the best example, however, comes at 10:39 where he is able to recognize his lack of angle and the closing pressure (despite being played through), and makes the decision to knock the ball inside, wrong footing defenders. He then has the vision to see the run and technical ability to play it with his left foot rather than his right, to surprise the defender.
One of the most striking elements of his game, which we see throughout the video, is his defensive work rate. Countless times in the video, a beautiful attacking sequence ending in a killer Giovani Lo Celso ball, is started by a turnover forced by a Giovani Lo Celso tackle. At 1:46 Giovani, from a forward position, sees a ball played towards his back line. Anticipating a header, Giovani sprints about ¼ of the pitch in order to steal the ball from a center mid, just as the ball settles. At 2:31, we see him turn on the jets to cut off a midfielder advancing the ball down the field, ending the possession with an aggressive but well executed tackle. The same tenacity and taclking technique are on display at 4:13, 4:36 and 5:13.
And for those of you smart enough to be skeptical of highlight videos, here is a video of his touches against Argentinos Jrs, and one against Estudiantes, which are less flashy but more substantial. You'll quickly see that this kid's talent is the real deal.
What the Numbers tell us:
While key passing numbers are not available to me for the Argentinean league, Lo Celso's 0.38 assists per 90 seem to back up the creativity on display on tape. His 3.16 shots per 90 further show how active he is in the attack.
Perhaps most surprising are his tackle numbers. Giovani Lo Celso averages 4.3 tackles per 90. To give you an idea of how ridiculous that is, the highest tackles per 90 rate in MLS from a CAM is Sacha Kljestan with 2.6. This confirms what we see on tape in a major way. This kid has a major engine when it comes to tracking back, and he knows how to tackle. This is incredibly valuable trait to have in a CAM because it helps mitigate the inherent defensive risks of playing one.
Putting it all together:
There are few 19 year old kids in the world who possess the vision, composure and passing skills of Giovani Lo Celso. He is truly a world class talent, which makes acquiring him rather problematic. World class talent doesn't come cheap.
That being said, there are teams in the league with pockets deep enough to pay for his transfer which could be upwards of 8 million dollars. His age would allow him to come in as a young DP, which certainly sweetens the pot, but I'm not quite sure I see the teams in MLS with the means to spend the money necessary to acquire him, actually doing it. For that kind of money, most teams usually want a guy with a proven track record, which is certainly an understandable position given the investment.
Despite this, there is no doubt in my mind that Giovani Lo Celso could come into this league and have and instant impact, and, if he were to do so, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to see a UEFA Champions League team lining up to acquire him in 3 or 4 years, which would be huge for the league.
What do you think of Giovani Lo Celso? Think he's a greater talent than Biro Biro? Are you dreaming of a world where Giovani Lo Celso is feeding balls to Giovani dos Santos for the Galaxy? Sound off below!