19 Forward Red Bull Salzburg Austria
In 1996, Eric Cantona scored Manchester United’s only goal in each of four consecutive Premier League matches, lifting them to the top of the table and keeping them there by turning three points into ten. On the day of the fourth goal, a solo effort against Tottenham Hotspur, Valentino Lazaro was born in Graz, Austria.
The youngster’s rise through the ranks at Red Bull Salzburg has been phenomenal. He became the Austrian Bundesliga’s youngest ever player when he made his debut at 16 years of age. He made his senior international debut at a shade over 18. He’s a young man with style, swagger and the haircut to boot.
Valentino Lazaro is modern elite football. He’s the manifestation of the FIFA video game generation.
2015 has been…
Broken by injuries. Lazaro has played just three times in the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign, each appearance coming from a position on the bench he’s been able to occupy only seven times. He may ooze confidence and be an exciting talent but he’s already had some worrying injuries.
In 2013 he fractured a metatarsal, hardly a damning injury but 2015 has been more concerning. After helping Salzburg to the double – remarkably the second such triumph bearing a teenage Lazaro’s contribution – he suffered a hamstring problem that spanned last season and this. In September he tore his ankle ligaments and he’s been sidelined ever since.
His summer injury coincided with the signing of a new contract that runs until 2019. Had he been fit and keen to move when the previous one ended in June, there would have been a number of bigger clubs investigating the possibility of bringing him in. Old links include the Milan clubs, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, but realistically he’s a less attractive option as an expensive 19-year-old than as the promising kid that might have moved in 2012.
When he’s fit, Lazaro remains one hell of a prospect. He’s a brilliant dribbler with a devastating drop of the shoulder, two good feet and a really good change of pace. He possesses a killer creative pass, fabulous ball control and a tidy finish – sometimes, at least. He can strike the ball beautifully and has scored some fizzing goals from the edge of the box, which he also attacks well to score from closer range on occasion.
There’s not a lot missing from Lazaro’s game. He’s what the future of attacking midfielders and forwards looks like, a showboating dynamo with the end product to match. Like so many players of his age the next important development will be defined by how well he matures. He needs to transfer his skills into a toolkit that allows him to have a bigger effect on senior games more consistently and with more emphasis on workrate from the first whistle to the last.
But first thing’s first. This winter Lazaro must get himself out of the Salzburg treatment room and stay out. He needs to get his first start under his belt, and then he can look ahead to an Austria return and a fifth cap and beyond. The feet are there. The effervescent invention is there. The mentality is there. Maturity must follow and fitness has to come with it.
D Stalled by injury, but not for long
If you've enjoyed reading the #IBWM100 please make a donation to help us keep the site ad free.