Tom Robinson writes a detailed scout report about the Ecuador and IdV midfielder, Moises Caicedo.
Football in Ecuador is in the midst of a major shake-up. In January the Ecuadorian Football Federation launched their project for a new-look national team, complete with a revamped logo and the appointment of Jordi Cruyff as manager at a glitzy presentation in Quito.
Having made a promising start to qualification for the 2018 World Cup, El Tricolor’s form fell off a cliff and they missed out, ushering the end of a generation that had made it to three of the last four editions. The time for change had come.
Fortunately, the off-field overhaul of the national team has been buoyed on the pitch by the emergence of an excellent young cohort, many of whom made up the U20 side that won Ecuador’s first ever Sudamericano and went on to finish third at the 2019 U20 World Cup.
Another reason to be hopeful for the future of Ecuadorian football is the work being done at Independiente del Valle. An extremely well-run and progressive club with a big focus on youth development, they boast one of the best academies on the continent. This philosophy is already bearing fruit, having reached the 2016 Copa Libertadores final and then going on to win the Copa Sudamericana last year.
Los Negriazules had made a blistering start to their Libertadores campaign this year too before proceedings came to a halt after just two group games. However, that was enough time to announce the arrival of yet another standout talent from their academy in the form of 18-year-old midfielder Moises Caicedo.
Who is Moises Caicedo?
Born in Santo Domingo, the fourth largest city in Ecuador, nestled in the foothills west of the Andes, Caicedo began in the youth ranks of Espoli and Colorados SC before joining Independiente del Valle at the age of thirteen.
He continuously impressed at youth level, picking up titles such as the Copa Mitad del Mundo and the Generation Adidas Cup, beating Real Madrid in the final, before making his first team debut for IDV in October 2019 as a substitute against LDU Quito.
Caicedo would go on to be an important part of the Independiente del Valle side that won the U20 Libertadores at the start of 2020. Displaying his leadership and ability, he held his nerve to score a last minute penalty equaliser against Flamengo in the semi-final and then captained his side to victory against River Plate in the final.
By this point the young midfielder was also establishing himself as a regular in the first team, starting three games in the LigaPro before it was suspended and also making an impact off the bench in both of IDV’s 3-0 wins in the Libertadores. To cap it all off, Caicedo scored an impressive long range effort against Junior to really announce himself on the continent’s biggest stage.
Style of play
Caicedo is your archetypal versatile defensive midfielder, capable of playing as either the principal holding midfielder or as the more forward-thinking of a double pivot duo, due to his mobility, passing and tactical discipline.
Always looking to receive the ball from the centre backs, Caicedo retains and recycles possession well, creating smooth transitions from defence to attack. While most of his passing is simple and effective, he can be more creative going forward and, as his goal against Junior demonstrates, has a decent strike from range.
Without the ball Caicedo is equally impressive. His reading of the game and positioning are second to none, whether that be ensuring he is in the right position in defensive phases or making sure he finds space to receive the ball from his teammates.
Teammate and club captain Christian Pellerano has cited his spectacular peripheral vision and his innate ability to always be in the right position too. Inevitably this has led to him being dubbed the Ecuadorian Kante, although Caicedo also has mentioned the likes of Pellerano, Jefferson Orijuela and Sebastian Mendez as reference points.
Caicedo also has the physical attributes to go alongside this positioning and tactical awareness. A bundle of energy, he is very mobile and able cover plenty of ground to screen the space in front of the defence and then break forward when necessary to support the attack. Furthermore, his physical condition allows him to press opponents quickly and at the right time when his side are without the ball and looking to regain possession.
Tackling and Intercepting
An important trait for any young defensively-minded central midfielder is the ability to break up play and Caicedo’s aforementioned skills and attributes allow him to win the ball well, either in defensive duels or by cutting out the danger.
Although he isn’t the most physically imposing, he has good strength and he times his challenges well. So far in his brief career he has averaged 4.68 successful defensive duels per game and the fact he doesn’t pick up many cards is testament to how clean he is in the tackle. Furthermore, he averages an impressive 5.08 interceptions per game, once again demonstrating how dominant he is in these defensive aspects of the game.
Passing and attacking contributions
While most of the focus has been on the more defensive side of his game, to pin Caicedo as just a midfield clogger would be a gross injustice. Albeit from a small sample size, his passing averages around 94% (according to Wyscout), he is very calm on the ball and likes to dictate the tempo of the game from deep-lying positions, be that by keeping simple passes ticking over or with a quick switch of play that breaks the lines and gets the team on the offensive.
What’s more has shown the ability to find pockets of space going forward, whilst also possessing the ability to carry the ball forward and affect things in the final third. The best example was his goal against Junior where he attacks the space and gets into a nice pocket behind the midfield. Unfazed, he brings the ball forward, looks up, casually evades a challenge, steadies himself and then rifles the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the area.
Mentality and Maturity
Independiente del Valle put a focus on developing their players off the field too, looking to cultivate well-rounded individuals and highlight the importance of education. Caicedo, one of ten brothers, is often referred to as a very level-headed individual who thrives at maths and this intelligence is also shown on the pitch with his quick decision-making and clever movement. His understanding of the game and different roles within it also gives him the versatility to play as more of a box-to-box midfielder or could even to see him potentially develop into a ball-playing centre back in the future.
From a mental perspective, his maturity for an 18-year-old also jumps out. The way in which he has stepped up to first team football without batting an eyelid elevates him beyond his peers. He leads by example and doesn’t shirk away from responsibility, always making himself available for the ball and communicating well with teammates and is not afraid to marshal players several years senior to him.
Lack of Experience
The only question mark for such a well-rounded young player is his lack of experience at this stage. With only 8 senior professional games under his belt, it is perhaps too early to say just how good he is given the small sample size and it would be unwise to heap too much expectation on him.
Having said that, given the way he has bossed it at every level to date, his potential has been bubbling away for some time and he certainly looks to have all the characteristics to become an exceptional player.
Right now the first aim will be to ensure that, when football resumes, Caicedo maintains the form he has shown so far this year and consolidates himself as a regular starter for Independiente del Valle. However, it will come as no surprise that his dream is to play in Europe, particularly at Manchester Utd – no doubt partly due to the influence and example of compatriot Antonio Valencia. Feyenoord and Sevilla are two names rumoured to be interested already and it certainly looks like his goal to cross the Atlantic will happen in the not too distant future.
At national team level, Caicedo seems to be part of burgeoning crop of exciting central midfielders. Jose Cifuentes shone for U20s in 2019 and is now at LA FC, while Jordan Sierra was arguably the standout of the 2017 U20 team. Throw in the likes of Jhegson Mendez, Carlos Gruezo and Alan Franco and there is some real competition for places in the centre of midfield for the new-look Ecuador national team.
It will be difficult for Caicedo to establish himself given the depth of talent in his position but it at least bodes well for Ecuador going forward and at the very least Caicedo is the embodiment of everything good about the youthful optimism surrounding both IDV and Ecuador right now.
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