With Southampton’s first summer signing now officially announced, Saints fans around the world are clambering for the low-down on Ronald Koeman’s answer to their goal-scoring woes – Juanmi, or Juan Miguel Jiménez López, to be exact. It’s only right we here at Outside of the Boot bring the young Spaniard into focus, and let Southampton – and Premier League fans – know exactly what they’ve got to look forward to.
Who is Juanmi?
Born Juan Miguel Jiménez López in May 1993, Juanmi is a Malaga man through and through. Not only was he born in the city, the youngster joined Malaga FC in 2008 at the tender age of 16. The Spaniard wasted no time making his mark, either. He may only have scored one goal during his two years in the Malaga B team, but Juanmi was making waves in the first team for his style, skill, and flair. In fact, in his first team debut against Getafe in the Copa Del Rey, Juanmi made history by becoming the club’s youngest ever goal-scorer in a 5-1 away defeat.
It was only a week after that goal that the youngster made the jump to La Liga football, getting a short run-out in a 1-0 win against, coincidentally enough, Getafe. Again, not that Juanmi was the most prolific of young talents for Malaga, the youngster maintained a presence within the first team for his abilities, and it wasn’t long before he was entering the history books once more, becoming the youngest ever player to score a La Liga brace, this time against Real Zaragoza. By this point, Juanmi had already been signed on a professional deal, tying him to the club until 2016.
While chances in the first team were limited after the marquee signing of world-renowned striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juanmi was still proving to be a handy squad player, nipping in with goals against Osasuna in a one-all draw, and a late winner against – you guessed it – Getafe in that season’s Copa Del Rey. After a brief unsuccessful and goalless loan spell at Racing Santander, the striker’s career finally began to stabilise under the leadership of new manager Bernd Schuster, and later, Juan Garcia. At the start of 2015, Juanmi was officially given the number 11 shirt, and ended his season with 8 goals in 28 league appearances, taking his career tally to 18 in 85 Malaga matches.
Style of play, Strengths and Weaknesses
This scout report represents a strange incidence in which I feel obligated to lead not with Juanmi’s strengths, but his weaknesses. I’m sure anyone reading this report has already identified the problem, and the elephant in the room cannot be ignored – Juanmi’s goal tally is less than stellar. For a striker that comes with all the hype he does, and all the fanfare from his Spanish natives, 18 goals in 85 appearances is a concerning return. While it is true that Juanmi’s finishing is not exactly the lethal weapon it should be in strikers that are as well-admired as he is, I should direct your attention to another Southampton player – Jay Rodriguez. A young man who arrived at Southampton in 2012 for £7m, much to the delight of Saints fans and the envy of many other clubs. At that time, Jay-Rod was touted as a lethal striker with a bright future – despite having scored just 31 goals in 105 Burnley appearances, and 4 during the 17 cumulative games he spent out on loan at Stirling Albion and Barnsley. Let this be the comparison on which we consider Juanmi.
The goal tally may not be anything to shout about just yet, but Southampton fans shouldn’t let that concern them, just as they were not concerned by Jay Rodriguez’s tallies, or Shane Long’s for that matter. To steal a quote from the incomparable Doctor Frasier Crane, Juanmi is just unschooled like Eliza Doolittle; give him the right Henry Higgins, he’ll be ready for a ball in no time.
The Spaniard possesses a sharp and delicate gift. Fleet of foot and tricky to track, the youngster has the same flair and style that Rodriguez did at Burnley, seasoned with the Spanish technical training that defines the nation. He is no Messi, by any means, but he certainly can mix it with the best of them. What most attracts me to the 22 year-old, however, isn’t so much his technical ability. It’s always pretty to watch and often just the trick when a defence needs breaking down, but what I appreciate is the other side of the game – the tracking and hassling, the jostling and annoying. The Spaniard isn’t the tallest and he’s certainly not the strongest, but boy does he work. His desire to hunt and press the ball allows Juanmi to find himself in positions and spaces others just don’t work hard enough to find. Such pressure has also caused some high-profile defensive errors, most notably from Barcelona’s Dani Alves.
In Spain, comparisons are made between Juanmi and legendary poacher, Raúl. While I’m not quite ready to support those claims, it’s clear where the link is made when you watch Juanmi play. With his back to goal or with his head down, there’s never any doubt between the player, the crowd, the opposing defence or their goalkeeper that Juanmi knows exactly where the goal is and how to hit it from wherever he is. While the goals haven’t flown in just yet, with a little more training and development, the striker could be the lethal and potent goal-scorer the Spanish media predict him to be.
What does the future hold?
I usually find that when the fabled “Spanish press” tell you a player is going to be good, they’re going to be good. I recall the day Michu came to Swansea, and the Spanish press assured us all he’d be a great signing for Swansea. I remember the day Mauricio Pochettino came to Southampton with succinct clarity (a story for another day), and the Spanish press quickly poured cold water on the national fears that the Poch would be a flop. Now, Juanmi is coming to England, and the Spanish press say he’ll be lethal when he’s acclimatised. From what I’ve seen, I have no reason to disagree.
At a reported fee of £5.1m, the Juanmi deal cannot go wrong for Southampton. The Spaniard already has the ability and talent that so many others can watch with envy, and at Southampton he will able to augment those talents with the famed academy and coaching structure. I would again draw comparisons to Jay Rodriguez, who came to the club at roughly the same size and developmental stage as Juanmi does. Fast forward three years and his time in red and white has seen Jay-Rod getting bigger, faster and stronger, and his finishing and movement are well above what they were at Burnley. Juanmi can enjoy the same success if he applies himself correctly, which under Ronald Koeman, he will have no choice but to.
Juanmi may never be Raul, but he certainly can carve a niche in the Spanish national team with his talents. Southampton is the perfect move for a youngster with the world at his feet, with European football and an exciting array of attacking quality surrounding him. While I don’t expect a bag load of goals in his maiden season, I would certainly expect the 22 year-old to prove an astute signing for the 2015/16 campaign – a player the fantasy football fans pick as a cheap and reliable points hoarder. A player that other clubs look at and think, “why weren’t we in for him at £5m?” Juanmi has a promising and exciting career ahead of him, and by the time he leaves Southampton, he’ll be worth much, much more than what they’ve signed him for now.
Written by Ross Bramble