If there is one thing that characterises football, it is the constant change to which it is subjected. From the beginnings with the 4-4-2 to the 4-3-3 or 3-4-3, from the ‘Catenaccio’ to the ‘Tiki-Taka’ or the gradual disappearance of the figure of the ’10’. In short, football is a mobile sport that lives in an infinite permutation caused by coaches and, also, by the profile of the players.

One of the latest developments is in playmaking. Midfielders have always been the linchpins that made the game’s machinery turn, but something seems to have changed. In today’s football, the full-back has emerged as the main catalyst of the game.

The most plausible example is Jurgën Kloop’s Liverpool, where Trent Alexander-Arnold is the driving force at right-back. Pep Guardiola also holds the full-back in high esteem as a playmaker.

In this case, the full-backs (Walker, Stones or Cancelo at the time) occupy a central position to form a double pivot with Rodri. It’s the new inverted pentagon shape, it means a line of three centre-backs and two pivots in front of them.

In this new trend, a player with all the characteristics to perform this function has appeared. We are talking about Valentín Barco (Buenos Aires, 2004), left-back for Boca Juniors.

Valentín Barco, a full-back:

Barco made his debut in the ‘Xeneize’ jersey on 16 July 2021 at the age of just 16 in a match against Union de Santa Fe on the first day of the season in Argentina. But it has been this season, under Jorge Almirón, that Barco has established himself in the Boca first team.

This season ‘El Colo’, so called because of his red-haired nature, has played in 17 matches and started 15 of them. His last game was in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores against Nacional of Uruguay. The diminutive full-back put in an interesting performance as a left midfielder, ahead of Colombian Frank Fabra.

This speaks of the versatility of a player who can occupy the whole of the left flank. During that match Barco showed glimpses that define him as a player.Against Nacional, he scored 75% in passes completed (36/48) and another 75% in dribbles completed (3/4). He also won seven of 11 duels played, which speaks of his intensity and defensive intelligence to win disputes.

Finally, the 19-year-old showed all his personality in the penalty shootout. With Boca Juniors 3-2 up in the shootout, ‘El Colo’ grabbed the ball and prepared to take what could have been the decisive penalty. With a calmness unbefitting his youth, Barco approached the ball at a leisurely trot and executed a little jump before taking the kick to score the penalty and earn Boca a place in the quarter-finals of the Libertadores.

In the season as a whole, Valentín Barco has played the role of catalyst for the team from full-back, one of the hallmarks of the team coached by Jorge Almirón. Despite his young age (19 years old), the left-back shows an insulting foresight for this position.

He is capable of giving verticality to the ‘Xeneizes’ attacks through progressive passes, that is to say, that advance towards the opponent’s goal, or through driving, thanks to his great dribbling ability (2.4 per game). In addition, he is a player with good defensive cutting ability, with special emphasis on the ‘Tackle’.

Barco’s profile is one of the most in demand at present and his emergence has aroused the interest of big European teams. Both Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have shown interest in the Argentina U-20 international.

His clause is set at 10 million euros, an attractive figure for either of these two teams. Furthermore, the characteristics of ‘El Colo’ adapt to the tactical predisposition of either of these two teams, especially (as we saw earlier), to that of Manchester City.

With Pep Guardiola as a mentor, Barco could become a generational full-back. A new profile to be studied in football schools. A full-back with the ability to be a playmaker at a stratospheric level. A full-back for everything.

Translated by Marcos Rodríguez.

Main image: @BocaJrsOficial.

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