Matias Kranevitter: The next Mascherano?

Name: Matias Kranevitter
Club: River Plate
Date of Birth: 21 May 1993
Position: Defensive midfield

Who is he?

The latest product off River Plate’s talent conveyor, Matias Kranevitter has steadily seen his stock rise over the past 18 months under Marcelo Gallardo and his assured performances in central midfield belie his young age. It is little wonder then that some of Europe’s biggest clubs are keeping a firm eye on the 21-year-old.

Kranevitter heralds from Tucuman in the north of Argentina and it was here, playing in a local tournament at the age of 14 that River Plate scouts spotted him. Moving more than 1000 kilometres to Buenos Aires cannot have been easy for the teenager but Kranevitter gradually progressed through River’s youth ranks.

The pinnacle of this was lifting the under-20 Copa Libertadores in 2012 where he illustrated his maturity in a defensive midfield role often more suited to battle-hardened veterans.

There was a buzz within the club over Kranevitter, following this and so he didn’t have to wait long for his first-team debut at the end of 2012 Torneo Inicial. The following year under Ramon Diaz, chances were hard to comeby with the experienced Leonardo Ponzio and Cristian Ledesma in front of him.

However, Marcelo Gallardo’s arrival saw Kranevitter seize his chance and become a key fixture in the starting eleven. At the start of the Torneo Transicion, River and Kranevitter were irresistible but a metatarsal injury hampered the youngster’s campaign and seriously dented River’s hopes of balancing a title challenge with the Copa Sudamericana.

Since returning from injury, Kranevitter has slotted straight back into River’s midfield and has continued to catch the eye in recent high-profile River matches against Boca Juniors and in the Copa Libertadores. Several European scouts were said to be present and so Kranevitter’s departure would appear to be only a matter of time.


What type of player?

If an example is needed for a classic Argentine number 5 then Kranevitter is it. Buzzing around in front of the back four, the 21-year-old looks to win the ball back quickly and start River attacks.

Harrying the opposition into mistakes, Kranevitter is fast and strong into the tackle but rarely rash leading to a high percentage of turnovers but relatively few fouls. However, this defensive duty is just half the job of a traditional number five and so they must be prepared to carry the ball forward and shift the ball from defence into attack.

Kranevitter does just this and although his passing isn’t extraordinary, it is effective. The ball is swiftly moved forward or given to those looking to break forward and attack and efficient use of the ball in this position is the order.

Is he the quickest player? No. Does he offer a goal threat? No. But that really misses the point of what Kranevitter is tasked with and what he does do incredibly well.

At just 21, he shows the maturity to play the role – his positioning, tackling and passing are excellent and once he develops more physically and mentally it would be no surprise to most who watch Argentine football if Kranevitter was one of world football’s leading defensive midfielders.


What next?

The immediate future with River is obviously to try and lift the Copa Libertadores but whether Los Millonarios are successful in this or not, Kranevitter is Europe bound. The past year has seen interest from Manchester City, Valencia, Napoli and AC Milan to name just a few but perhaps the side most strongly linked is Atletico Madrid.

Atleti manager, Diego Simeone managed River, albeit when Kranevitter would have been in the youth ranks but will be more aware than most of his talents given that he plays alongside Simeone’s son, Giovani.

Already in possession of an Italian passport, meaning there will be no problems with visas and playing for a River side in financial difficulties, Kranevitter poses a very attractive proposition to wealthy European sides.


Written by Peter Coates

Follow Peter on Twitter @golazoargentino

You can check out more of his excellent work on Argentinian football through his website, Golazo Argentino

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