Midfielder | VfB Stuttgart | Argentina
Santiago Ascacibar joined German outfit Stuttgart in the summer of 2017, by the end of the subsequent campaign - his first in European football - the no-holds-barred defensive midfielder had completed as many tackles throughout the season as any other Stuttgart player, and of his teammates, only Benjamin Pavard racked up a greater total of successful interceptions. Ascacibar also came within one booking of the league record - which is always nice!
Likened in style to Gennaro Gattuso in the pages of FourFourTwo; compared with his compatriot Javier Mascherano by the legendary former Barcelona man himself; defined as a sort of modern-day Esteban Cambiasso by Raphael Honigstein. If the stature of those he is measured against is any kind of rule to go by then it is clear to see that many expect to see great things come of the 21-year-old’s career.
Already a week in, week out starter at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, Ascacibar has never looked anything but comfortable in European football. His tenacious, all-action style naturally draws the eye and provokes the affection of stadium goers.
Argentine icon Diego Maradona’s face is inked into his calf. It is an El Diego-esque spirt and fire that fuels Ascacibar as he hurtles around the pitch, snapping at heels and whiplashing himself into tackles. The spirit and heart of the legend is there, the goals absolutely are not - but we can live with that.
2018 has been…
…more of the same. Which is good. Since leaving his boyhood club Estudiantes for the bright lights of the Bundesliga, he has not looked back. 2018 continued in the vein of the pattern established in the latter half of the previous year. Ascacibar has been playing regularly and improving with satisfying consistency.
Stuttgart handed Ascacibar a five-year contract extension this year, that ties him to the club until 2023. At the very least, these terms ought to ensure that the club are in a strong position to demand a sizeable fee should any of Europe’s giants come calling after the midfielder’s services. Do not expect Ascacibar to still be with Stuttgart in 2023.
Having represented his country at the 2016 Olympics, and featured regularly for the under-20s side, the midfielder made his senior international debut for Argentina in 2018 against Guatemala in a friendly. He has since had outings against Iraq and Mexico, but far greater involvement at this level must be the immediate aim for the youngster.
It’s all about becoming a regular starter for Argentina. There’s also work to be done on his game. The modern defensive midfielder is expected to have vision, a range of passing, and an ability to launch attacks from his deep-lying base. Ascacibar has shown flashes of creativity but it is an area he still has plenty of room to grow in.
His energy and combative style make him hard not to love though. He balances this with great tactical awareness and near-perfect positional sense, which ensures that rather than being a throwback to a simpler game, he has what it takes to survive and thrive in the here and now.
B - Surely scrapping his way to the very top