Exequiel Palacios is ready for his close-up

Halfway through the season, Bayer Leverkusen find themselves in sixth place but only nine points off the summit. So it's understandable that they might want to roll the dice in what has become the most competitive Bundesliga in many years. But we think they've done much better than that.

Exequiel Palacios is a 21-year-old Argentine midfielder who's arriving from River Plate for €17m. We're not going to get any more specific than "midfielder", because this smarterscout young prospect has left his native land in the middle of a breakout season where he's played all over the middle of the park. What's interesting about Palacios is that his stats even in the short stretches he played before this season were very similar. Here they are adjusted to a Bundesliga standard at DM, with huge attacking output, high-quality defending, and good ball retention:

But it's even more interesting to look at Palacios across different positions, since he appears to be so versatile. Here he is at DM, CM, and CAM for River Plate, again at a Bundesliga standard:

He's an outstanding finisher and recovers more balls than practically any other player at these positions. He's also that rare player who can adjust his style for different positions, disrupting a huge number of opposition plays at DM but focusing more on this passing towards goal at CM, which is also where he takes the most risks on the ball. He's mediocre both ways in duels at a Bundesliga standard, but again, just 21 years old.

It might be too simple to call Palacios a box-to-box player, but one of the closest matches to his style in recent seasons of the Bundesliga was Charles Aranguiz – the very player that Palacios is probably slated to replace. The Chilean international is still going strong at age 30, with very good overall numbers and a style that's as combative as ever, but Palacios is about as precise a replacement as you could hope to find. And did we mention, he's a much better finisher?

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[Photo: Carlos Figueroa Rojas]

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