Thomas Harrison writes a detailed Scout Report about Monterrey’s young defensive jewel, César Montes.
Who is César Montes?
At 6’4” tall, 19-year-old César Montes is a towering central-defender. Montes currently plays for one of the largest and strongest teams in Mexico, Monterrey, and despite his young age has been a regular starter since making his competitive debut in a July 2015 Copa MX game. This rapid rise has come as a pleasant surprise to many Mexico fans, with few knowing about Montes’ talents before he made his debut.
Not long after making his debut, Montes played, and scored in, Monterrey’s inaugural game at their new stadium. Los Rayados opened the 53,500 capacity Estadio BBVA Bancomer with a friendly against Benfica on the 2nd August 2015, and after coming on from the bench, Montes scored the first goal at the new stadium.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Consistent impressive performances in the 2016 Clausura (second half of the season) saw Montes selected in the Liga MX Best Xl for the competition, and his side Monterrey were narrow runners-up in the final, losing to Pachuca in the last minute of the second leg.
Despite not representing Mexico at any level in international football previously, Montes was called up for the 18-man squad for the Rio Olympic games, and he started all of El Tri’s group stage games at centre-back. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to prevent Mexico from making a disappointing group stage exit, as they looked to defend the title they won back in London in 2012.
What are his Strengths?
What strikes you first when watching Montes play is how comfortable and competent he is when in possession. Standing 6’4” tall, it may be expected that Montes would look gangly and uncomfortable on the ball, but this isn’t the case. A ball-playing defender, Montes has a great range of passing, and has shown on a few occasions that he’s able to pick out long-range passes.
The raking through-ball for Rogelio Funes Mori’s golazo in the local derby, known as Clásico Regiomontano, against Tigres is the best example of Montes’ long-rang passing ability. Montes spotted Funes Mori, twin brother of Everton defender Ramiro, making a run in behind the Tigres defence and he found the Argentine with a stunning through ball, before Funes Mori struck an incredible first-time volley into the back of the net.
Being able to play killer long passes, in a similar fashion to the likes of Mats Hummels and Leonardo Bonucci, as well short passes to retain possession should impress scouts from big European teams, with possession skills increasingly important for central-defenders in the modern game. A move to Europe, which seems very likely in the future, may take a while to materialise though. Mexican clubs have a fair amount of financial strength and Monterrey will demand a large transfer fee for Montes.
Another part of César’s game which often impresses is his slide tackling ability. I can recall multiple occasions when Montes has legally prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity with a well-timed, and accurate, slide tackle. Also, as you’d expect from a 6’4” player, Montes is good in the air and able to deal with high balls into the box, although he could become more of a threat from set pieces. He only scored once in the league last season, and that was from a rebound.
Above all else, there’s a real maturity about Montes that’s been evident from the moment he first stepped out for Monterrey. It would be expected for a teenage defender to make a few errors and on occasion look out of his depth. He hasn’t. In fact, although making the odd small mistake, I cannot recall a single high-profile error made by Montes since he broke in the first team at Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Montes has looked well worth his starting place at centre-back and often his more experienced defensive partner, José María Basanta, who has 12 Argentina caps, has looked the weaker part of the duo.
What are his Weaknesses?
As shown by the amount of times he’s needed to make sliding challenges, there’s room for improvement when it comes to Montes’ reading of the game and ability to step in and make interceptions, but the 19-year-old has impressed me with this aspect of the game on a fair few occasions. With more match experience and playing alongside an experienced defender in José Maria Basanta, Montes should only get better at reading the game given time.
Physical attributes are probably Montes’ biggest weaknesses. Partly due to his height, the Monterrey defender is far from the quickest, and his strength isn’t particularly impressive considering his size. Montes’ age must be taken into consideration here though, and he has a few years before he reaches his physical peak.
Playing in Liga MX may actually be Montes’ greatest shortcoming, due to the style of play that he’s gotten used to. Mexican football is generally a lot slower than in Europe, with defences tending to sit rather deep, often little pressure put on the ball, and plenty of time and space for players to express themselves.
Montes may have major problems adapting to a faster paced game which gives himself less time to recover his position and make decisions. The 19-year-old could also struggle if asked to adopt a high line and spring offside traps.
Furthermore, Montes’ range of passing and ball retention skills may not be as impressive in Europe, with less time on the on the ball due to high pressing from opposition attackers. This is another aspect of the game that Montes will have to adjust to if he is to take the next step in his career and move to Europe.
Adapting to top-level European football would be a huge challenge for Montes, but Mexican defenders have shown in the past that they’re able to make the transition. Players such as Rafa Márquez, Francisco Javier “Maza” Rodríguez and Héctor Moreno are recent examples of centre-backs that have had success in Europe. Montes certainly has the ability and potential to follow in the footsteps of Maza and Moreno, and may even be able to emulate the achievements of Márquez, one of Mexico’s greatest ever footballers.
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