In football some things are just meant to be. On the 14th of December 2014, Villarreal’s number 7 scored the winning goal against Atletico with 7 minutes of normal time left to leave the champions 7 points behind then leaders Real Madrid. In doing so Vietto put Atletico’s title defence in jeopardy and rose to prominence in the football world all against the man who had given him his debut at Racing; Diego Simeone. Fast forward 7 months to the 7th month of 2015 and he has been recruited by the very same manager who is hoping he can inspire a tilt at the title. Vietto is understandably in 7th heaven.
Who is Luciano Vietto?
Luciano Vietto is a 21 year-old Argentinian striker who was born in the town of Balnearia in December 1993. Vietto joined his local team Independiente de Balnearia at the age of 7. Eight years later he signed for Argentine Primera División side Estudiantes. He was unfortunately released by Estudiantes 2 years later and after a number of trials, including a failed one at Rosario Central, Vietto was signed by Racing Club in 2010.
2011 was a big year for him at Racing as he signed his first professional contract and made his first-team debut as a substitute against Lanus. A year later he scored a hat-trick in his first professional start in a home win against San Martín de San Juan. In that season he went on to score 13 goals as Racing finished fifth in the Primera Division, a sensational return in his first full season. That summer he was part of the Argentina U-20 team that failed to qualify from their group in the 2013 South American football championship, finishing behind Paraguay, Colombia and Chile. From an individual point of view it was a good tournament for Vietto as he scored twice in 4 games with goals against Paraguay and Bolivia. Perhaps suffering burnout in the aftermath of the tournament Vietto’s next season at Racing was poor as he ended with 5 goals in 35 appearances.
This turned out to be his final season at Racing as he signed for Villareal in 2014 for a reported 5.5 million euros. 2014/15 was his one and only season at Villareal. Vietto scored 18 goals in all competitions including goals against Barcelona and Sevilla. As reward for his stellar season, Vietto was named in the La Liga U-22 team of the season alongside other prospects such as Valencia’s Jose Gaya and new team-mate Saul Niguez. In July 2015 after a stellar first season in European football he signed for Atletico Madrid on a 6 year contract for a fee of around £15 million, in today’s market a real bargain.
Style of play, strengths, and weaknesses
Vietto is certainly a modern forward, he is equally comfortable dropping deep to link with his team-mates as he is running in behind defenders. Part of what makes him so dangerous is that he is very unpredictable, he can shoot with both feet and he is a diminutive forward with good dribbling ability and a low centre of gravity enabling him to change direction quickly as Atletico’s Diego Godin found out the hard way. An impressive successful take-on rate of 45% is evidence of this. As Diego Simeone said “He is fast, makes smart moves and shoots the ball well with both feet”. Vietto’s playing style has brought rather predictable comparisons with fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero. Atletico and Argentina fans will certainly be hoping he can live up to this lofty billing.
As with most young players Vietto can suffer from inconsistency, this was evident in his 9-game scoreless streak at the end of the season. It is relatively common with young players but it is still a weakness and one that Vietto will wish to iron out over the coming years. At 5ft 8in Vietto has one or two more obvious weaknesses, one of which is in aerial duels which is of course directly related to his height. Vietto won a mere 19% of his aerial duels which demonstrates his lack of aerial prowess. Another weakness is his lack of strength which is somewhat related to his relatively light weight of 68 kg. Vietto is by no means easily bullied due to his inner strength but he could struggle in very physically intense encounters.
However what he lacks in height and strength, he more than makes up for with his vast range of abilities. One of these is his dribbling ability, with his quick feet and agility Vietto is very dangerous in 1v1 situations. When combined with his pace, Vietto is well equipped to thrive at Atletico Madrid who scored 8 goals on the counter-attack in their 2013/14 title winning season. Another aspect that stands him in good stead is his work rate, Vietto is one of the new breed of attackers with a high work rate which is one of his major strengths and with him around defenders never have a moment to rest. Vietto is constantly harassing defenders making them rush their decisions, giving himself and his team-mates a better chance of gaining possession. Atletico are renowned for being an intense team with no defensive passengers and Vietto certainly fits the profile.
In his short career so far Vietto has shown himself to be a real goalscorer and his finishing ability is very good for his age, with an impressive league ratio of 6.5 shots per goal. To give this stat some context his established compatriots Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez both posted an average of 5.7 shots per goal, which is not far better. His record compares favourably to age mate and new Juventus starlet, Dybala, who averaged 9 shots per goal at Palermo last season. Another of Vietto’s strengths is his intelligent movement, he makes very intelligent runs often on the blind-side of defenders and this has served him well contributing to a number of his goals.
What does the future hold?
Having just secured a big move to Atletico Madrid Vietto’s next challenge is to fight for his place in the starting XI. For obvious reasons this will be more difficult than it was at Villareal, however his task has been made even more difficult by the arrival of Jackson Martinez from Porto. The presence of Martinez combined with Griezmann’s excellent form last term will pose the biggest threat to Vietto’s first team prospects. Diego Simeone is undoubtedly one of the reasons Vietto decided to join Atletico and Vietto can be assured that he is playing for a manager who is fully aware of his talent and has his best interests at heart.
The challenge for Vietto and his team-mates next season is to prevent another trophyless season at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico will aim to launch a sustained assault on the Champions League after being losing finalists in 2014 and being cruelly knocked out in stoppage time of the 2015 quarter-final both at the hands of city rivals Real Madrid. Furthermore they will aim to regain the title that they won against all odds in 2014 with a heroic draw against Barcelona, in addition to a long cup run. Therefore there is certainly a busy season ahead for Vietto and Atletico Madrid.
On the international scene Vietto will be looking to break into the Argentina national set-up sooner rather than later. This will be very difficult as Argentina have several established players in his position including, Aguero, Tevez, Higuain and Lavezzi. Furthermore there is competition from age mates Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi who have shown similar promise at their respective clubs. It will clearly be a tall order but Vietto will be hoping to impress enough to make the Argentina squad for the upcoming Copa America in the summer of 2016. (Note: There are doubts over whether it will go ahead due to the FIFA corruption case.)
Overall the main aim for Vietto should undoubtedly be to work as hard as possible to be the best player he can possibly be. To use the words of Marcelino “it is obvious that he has plenty of room to develop”.
Written by Judah Davies
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