We’re on our last legs. The World Cup in Qatar is knocking on our doors and, this Sunday, the opening match between the hosts and Ecuador will get the ball rolling. France seeks reconfirmation after Russia 2018, Spain wants to return to enchant, England is on a mission to bring the cup back home, Brazil is attempting to assault the sixth star. But among the favorites on the eve, all eyes will be on Argentina. Between video game simulations and algorithms, the Albiceleste of Messi, at the last great opportunity to cement his legend, is the main indicated to climb to the roof of the world. But if the 7-time Ballon d’Or player wants to engrave his name even further in the history books, there is another player who needs this World Cup.
THE CENTRALITY IN THE NATIONAL – In coach Lionel Scaloni’s squad list, it was no surprise to read the name and surname of Rodrigo De Paul. The Argentine isn’t having the best moment of his career but we’ll get back to that shortly. The number 7 of the national team is undoubtedly a precious element of the chessboard Albicelestial. From the day of his debut, dated 11 October 2018 (4-0 win in a friendly against Iraq), Scaloni has practically never given up on the Atletico Madrid midfielder, not calling him up on only 2 occasions out of 47 matches. The technical commissioner did not fail to trust him in the colchonero: whether it’s at 4, whether it’s 3, whether you place it in right or left midfielder, the Argentina midfield cannot do without De Paul’s presence on the field. The last bench in the national team dates back to 29 June last year, from the match against Bolivia. A match that had nothing to say for Messi and his companions, for the purposes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Copa America. Rodrigo himself, on that occasion, proved he deserves Scaloni’s trust: in fact, the winning assist for Di Maria in the final against Brazil bears his name. But if performances rise to an international level, the music changes in Spain.
WANTED DE PAUL – The transfer to Atletico Madrid, in the summer of 2021, should have been the definitive leap in quality for the former Udinese captain. But something didn’t go right. Let’s go step by step: on 21% of the occasions, De Paul was not deployed in his natural role of central midfield. Median, winger, attacking midfielder, right and left wing, these are all the positions held by the Argentine in his parenthesis colchonera. But if the placement on the pitch offered to him by Simeone weren’t enough, the statistics place us in front of a not very reassuring picture: in the 66 appearances with the red and white shirt, De Paul was involved in just 10 plays that ended on goal. In just his last season in Serie A (20/21), the figure practically doubled (19). In this first part of the season, out of 19 games, the Argentine he played the full 90 minutes on just two occasions (against Cadiz in La Liga and Porto in the Champions League). Of even greater concern is the financial situation of Atletico Madrid: the main suspect for restoring the coffers of Colchoneros it is really Rodrigo. But not all bad comes to hurt. Because it’s not Atleti that needs to sell the Argentine but it’s their #5 that needs a breath of fresh air. Everything suggests that the time has come for De Paul to return to showcasing all his talent. The World Cup showcase is about to open and important performances in Qatar would guarantee a greater market for the former Udinese player. The future of his career at the top level rests in the hands of the 28-year-old Argentinian. Qatar 2022 will have to be Rodrigo De Paul’s World Cup, the long-awaited launch pad, the ultimate explosion. The top European clubs are warned: keep an eye out for De Paul.
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Killed by Simeone, indispensable for Argentina: who is the real De Paul?
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