Rodrigo Bentancur: A Scouting Report

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Daniel Alexander
Contact: danielalex2003@gmail.com

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Rodrigo Betancur is a Uruguayan professional footballer who currently plays his club football for Juventus, predominantly as a deeper lying midfielder. Having started his professional career with Argentinian side Boca Juniors, he signed for Juventus in July 2017 after impressing in the Argentine Primera Division. He plays a pivotal role for both club and country for whom he has won 41 caps to date.

+ Excellent passing range

One of Bentancur’s best attributes is his excellent passing range. His long range pass completion stands at a brilliant 76.9% and this is a key weapon that Juventus use to their advantage in order to create chances. Against opposition who play an especially high line, Bentancur can use his passing range to play long balls over the top of the defensive line which the likes of Chiesa and Morata can exploit. He also averages 6.07 progressive passes and 6.18 passes into the final third which shows his medium and shorter range passing is also penetrative. Overall he averages 1.96 shot creating actions per 90 in live ball situations, which is exemplary for a deeper lying midfielder. Even when put under pressure, Bentancur completes around 10.09 under pressure passes per 90 which shows he is capable of playing out from the back under intense pressing. He does this often by using his ‘lanky’ frame in order to shield the ball from the opposition and lay it off onto his teammates. His ball shielding abilities are world class and it massively contributes to him playing well under intense pressing. 

+ Defensive contribution

With 2.8 pAdj tackles and 1.71 pAdj interceptions per 90, Bentancur is a very good player defensively and it is his hardwork and perseverance that allows this. He makes the majority of his tackles in the midfield and attacking third, which allows his team to quickly counter once they have regained the ball. With 41.8% of opposition dribbles being tackled by him, Bentancur is certainly an elite defensive midfielder.

As the situation in the above diagram shows, the incoming opposition wingback means that the Juventus fullback needs to step out of his defensive line to confront him. An opposition midfielder then identifies the space and tries to move into it, however Bentancur has the intelligence to spot the danger and snuff it out before any real harm is done. This once again highlights Bentancur’s intelligent defending.

+ Ability to exploit right half space and wing

As the above heatmap shows (from Bentancur’s 19/20 season under Sarri), Bentancur predominantly occupies a midfield position but he also tends to drift to the right wing at times in order to disrupt the opposition backline.  This is usually aided by the right winger moving to the right half space which then overloads the opposition’s left side. Overloading the opposition’s left side allows Juventus to attack and create chances via crosses. 

Moreover in certain situations, Juventus’s right winger stays wide which pins back the opposition defensive line and forces the opposing left back out of his position and as the above diagram shows, Bentancur can exploit the right half space left vacated by the full back. These types of run from midfield areas highlight Bentancur’s intelligence and they can be used as a weapon to unlock difficult low blocks.

– Poor ball carrying

As the above graph shows, Bentancur is a very average ball progressor especially when compared to the other elite midfielders in Serie A. He averages around 0.87 completed dribbles per 90 which is bad for a deeper lying midfielder and this results in him averaging a very poor 4.11 progressive passes per 90. Bentancur is very efficient at evading the opposition press but he doesn’t always possess the ability nor the intelligence to drive into the open spaces left behind. He rather prefers to lay off the ball to one of his teammates and this trait could be considered a hindrance to his progression as a deeper lying midfielder. 

– Lack of assists

Bentancur has mostly played as a central midfielder in his footballing career with 141 total appearances to date in that position. Despite all that, he has only achieved 20 total career assists in his professional club career, his goal record isn’t much better either with him getting a total of 4 goals for his club sides. This could be considered as a major flaw for a modern day midfielder and his end product has to improve, if he is to keep playing as a central midfielder.

Conclusion

Bentancur is an excellent deeper lying midfielder who is constantly improving his game. The diagram above shows the improvement in his game from when he was 21 to when he was 22 and this highlights the hard work he puts in to improve his footballing skills. His excellent passing range has only got better as he’s got older and his defensive numbers have greatly bettered over the years. However, he lacks real dynamism when ball carrying but he has shown improvement in this department, season by season. 

In my opinion, Bentancur operates best in a deeper regista role in the DM position rather than as a central midfielder as he lacks the end product that a top class central midfielder usually has. Furthermore, in a regista role his poor ball carrying abilities can be compensated for by his exemplary passing range, as that is a regista’s primary role.

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