Football seemed to change its course towards the kind of midfielder that dominated the game at the start of this century. Physical was the most important aspect to succeed, with players such as Vieira in the Premier League as the referents of this new trend. Others such as Xavi, slow, short and not too strong had it difficult to stand out at that time.
Despite it all, the ‘Crazy Small Players’ took over the domain in football as time passed by with the arise of Xavi, Iniesta or Modric. Who would have thought that understanding the game was more important than being strong.
Now the trend wants to change its course once again with more versatile players. Tchouaméni is the most clear example, as he is a defensive specialist that can also take a key role at playing the ball and even adding at offensive actions. His teammate Camavinga, or Declan Rice are other good examples of this kind of midfielders.
The evolution of football is unstoppable, as whenever there is a general thought that a midfielder must dominate through his physical, an exception that proves the rule arises. That is the case of Martín Zubimendi at Real Sociedad.
The young player for Real Sociedad is having a key role at the approach of coach Imanol Alguacil. The game of his team with several players inside such as David Silva, Brais Méndez, Mikel Merino or Take Kubo benefits Zubimendi, who is in charge of keeping the squad together.
The legacy of Busquets:
A midfielder that can steal the ball and stand out at building the play. Physical is not the only aspect to defend well, but also knowing what is going on around you and anticipating to the action. The comparisons based on the playing style and position wise are clear, Sergio Busquets.
The legacy of Busquets is something that is always on the conversations, as so far they have been unable to find him the right replacement. Nico arose from the academy, which is an interesting but overall not identical profile. His loan to Valencia has proved that Xavi does not really count on him.
De Jong is another player who has been asked to carry out the difficult task of substituting Busquets, They have not the same features, which leaves Xavi with the dilemma of either changing the system in the midfield to fit the Dutchman in or not getting the most out of him.
Zubimendi finds himself comfortable at installing himself between the central defenders when playing the ball from backwards, but he can also drive it and appear in the opponent’s half of the field. He is the natural replacement, Barça know it and so Real Sociedad. Negotiations will be tough for acquiring the 23 years old player.
The growth that Zubimendi has experienced after being coached by Xabi Alonso in the academy all the way to becoming a key piece for Imanol’s system proves his maturity and a great understanding of the game that very few players can add.
We have a lot to see still, but the fact that a profile like Zubimendi can also stand out at such a physical football is great news. We must enjoy watching him play.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.
Main image: @RealSociedad.