Tom Robinson writes a detailed scout report about the Argentina and Famalicão playmaker, Carlos Fernando Valenzuela.
With summer transfer deals beginning to ramp up, one of the more under-the-radar moves comes in the form of Carlos Fernando Valenzuela leaving Barracas Central for Portuguese upstarts Famalicão. The recently promoted side, with close ties to Atletico Madrid, were the early pacesetters in the Primeira Liga before eventually finishing a respectable sixth.
The form of outstanding young Argentinian centre back loanee Nehuen Perez has been one of the highlights of their campaign and they hope to repeat the trick by pulling off another bit of shrewd business with the addition of his compatriot Valenzuela.
Born in the dusty northern city of Santiago del Estero, Valenzuela moved to Buenos Aires to join Racing’s famed youth academy at the age of 11. The diminutive playmaker quickly made a name for himself as “the one to watch” within the club and even went on trial at Roma. Alongside Lautaro Martinez, Juan Musso and Brian Mansilla, Valenzuela tore it up at youth level and made his debut in January 2016 in a pre-season Torneo de Verano friendly against bitter rivals Independiente.
However, while Lautaro Martinez would break into the Racing first team and quickly establish himself as one of the best young strikers in the world, that game would prove to be Valenzuela’s one and only appearance for La Academia. A loan move at Nueva Chicago in the second division followed but upon returning to Racing there wasn’t space for him in Facundo Sava’s squad and he was released.
Despite having offers from Spain, Valenzuela took the decision to drop down the divisions to Barracas Central, at the time in the third tier Primera B Metropolitana. There in the tough, working class neighbourhood of central Buenos Aires and away from the limelight, Valenzuela scored 20 goals in 38 games as Barracas won the league and got promoted.
His dazzling displays for Los Camioneros – no doubt also helped by the fact AFA president Claudio ‘Chiqui’ Tapia is Barracas Central’s chairman – saw him earn a call up to Fernando Batista’s U22 Argentina squad for the Panamerican games. 4 goals in 5 games helped Argentina to the title and Valenzuela was called up to the U23s for the Pre-Olimpicos but ultimately missed out due to injury.
This international form helped propel him back into the public consciousness and it was clear that he wouldn’t be at Barracas Central much longer, with Marcelo Gallardo among his admirers. It might have been the less trodden path to success but Valenzuela and his intoxicating style of play could well be an exciting addition to the Liga NOS next season.
A left-footed playmaker who tends to play on the right wing, Valenzuela is a fantastic dribbler who is at his best when he is taking on the opposition full-back – and anyone else for that matter. The archetypal potrero player with his low centre of gravity, excellent close control and penchant for showmanship, he averages a staggering 11.11 dribbles per 90 minutes. While the level of opposition might give him the freedom and licence to express himself, his dribbling is nevertheless the biggest weapon in his artillery.
What makes Valenzuela so difficult to defend is his unpredictability as he likes to cut inside onto his favoured left but can just as easily beat his man and go to the byline instead. Though his idol is Carlos Tevez, he is heavily influenced by Lionel Messi in the sense that he likes to start on the right and have the free reign to drift in to more central areas.
Given this outstanding dribbling ability and Valenzuela’s slight stature, he inevitably wins a lot of fouls for his side (3.74 per 90) but can sometimes look for the free-kick too easily. With the increased intensity of European football, he may need to learn to stay on his feet a bit more to avoid being deemed to lightweight.
As with any creative attacking midfielder, Valenzuela possesses impressive passing and vision to pick the eye-of-the-needle through balls to unlock defences. On top of his 80.4% pass accuracy, it’s in the final third where he is most dangerous, averaging 4.33 passes to the final third per 90 with a 77.4% accuracy and 9.07 forward passes per 90 too.
As a player who mainly operates on the wing, Valenzuela has a decent delivery but he’s not someone who relies too heavily on putting balls into the box from out wide. Having said that, his dribbling ability allows him the time and space to put in dangerous cut backs from the byline or stand one up to the back post, while he’s also a threat from dead ball situations too.
What makes Valenzuela more of a threat your typical tricky winger is the goals he brings from midfield. His 20 goals in 37 games for Barracas Central, though in the third tier, demonstrated his ability to find the back of the net and was reinforced by his four strikes for the Argentina U22s.
Capable of scoring all types of goals, from curled finishes and cool slotted shots to sensational strikes from distance and slinky solo efforts, as demonstrated by the examples below:
For all of Valenzuela’s attractive and exciting qualities, there are some evident caveats that may be barriers to any potential success in Europe. As with any diminutive attacking player, there will be inevitable questions about his physical attributes and while he is never going to be effective aerially, the unforgiving world of the Argentinian lower divisions certainly means he should be robust enough to deal with the tough challenges that come his way.
The biggest question will no doubt come in how he is able to deal with the increased intensity and adapting to a new country. His lack of top flight experience means that it’s quite a significant jump in quality and, although his international displays suggest he is more than capable of making the step up, it remains something of an unknown for the time being. As the move is a loan with an option to buy, it effectively gives him a chance to prove his worth, whilst reducing the risk in the investment Famalicao are making.
Nevertheless, given the obstacles Valenzuela has had to overcome so far in his early career and the dedication and hard work, on top of the undoubted skill, has got him this opportunity at a deserved shot in Europe.
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