21 Midfielder (Empoli on loan from Internazionale) Uruguay
2014 has been...
A near-total bust. Uruguayan midfielder Diego Laxalt has come back to earth with a bump after impressing for the Under-20 national team in 2013, not least in the Under-20 World Cup tournament. There, he played in all seven matches as Uruguay lost out to France at the final hurdle. Laxalt was lauded for his performances. He’s played precious little first team football since.
Born in Montevideo, Laxalt’s football education took place at Defensor Sporting and he played a handful of first team league games before making a big move to Europe that looks every bit a mistake in the cold light of December 2014. He headed for Italy and Internazionale, where a change of coach seems to have pulled the rug out from underneath him.
Walter Mazzarri didn’t fancy him and he was immediately loaned out when he arrived in the summer of 2013, having agreed the move prior to Mazzarri’s arrival. Laxalt came to regret his loan spell at Bologna in 2013/14; there, he started just nine of his 15 Serie A appearances, scoring twice, and returned to Milan with gloomy prospects. Mazzarri didn’t budge but apparent interest from Cesena, Cagliari and Almeria gave him options on another loan.
In the end it was Empoli who took him on for 2014/15 and it hasn’t gone well at all. Maurizio Sarri hasn’t used Laxalt much more than Mazzarri might have. The Uruguayan isn’t getting in the team and it was reported in October that he could leave Empoli in January due to a lack of playing time, which, at that point, totalled zero minutes in Serie A.
Sampdoria and Udinese were rumoured to be interested in having a look at him, which speaks volumes of the quality he has at his disposal even if it hasn’t really clicked for him this year. Perhaps more pertinently there’s been a change in the Nerazzurri ranks, where Mazzarri has taken his leave and been replaced by Roberto Mancini. Who knows what the new man might think of Laxalt?
There’s been a change of pace for him at Empoli in recent weeks as well. At the time of writing (prior to Empoli’s match against Napoli) Laxalt has been introduced as a substitute in Empoli’s last three league matches, his first three Serie A appearances for the club. After those he played 90 minutes against Genoa in the Coppa Italia, scoring early in a 2-0 win for the Tuscany club.
But it’s difficult not to be concerned about the emergence of patterns and habits, and Laxalt’s year has rung alarm bells. Twice he’s been out on loan and twice he’s been unable to make the grade. He’s played a part in fewer than 20 league games in more than a season and half of them have been off the bench. In too many of those substitute appearances he’s barely had a kick.
It’s in no way overstating the gravity of Laxalt’s situation to say that 2015 could be the biggest year of his career. On his day is a dynamic and lively midfielder with good technique, a streak of devilishness and an accomplished, modern game. But he’ll be 22 in February and he’s simply not playing enough football, having dropped out of the international scene altogether this year.
Mancini might be the key, or a better choice of loan move could better unlock Laxalt’s potential. The talent is undoubtedly there but his next move absolutely has to be the right one for his development and maturation as a professional.
"Fantastic for Uruguay in the U-20 tournament last summer, Laxalt is a star in the making but struggling to make an impact at Empoli." - Adam Digby
"Diego Laxalt is yet to be on the losing side with Empoli in Serie A." - OptaJoe
E Needs to find a home, and fast.
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