In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Boca Juniors’ 19-year old box-to-box midfielder Cristian Medina.

An underwhelming first half of 2021 for Boca Juniors saw the Xeneize fall at the semi-final hurdle in Argentina’s Copa De La Liga and progress somewhat unconvincingly behind Barcelona from their Copa Libertadores group. The overdue need for reinforcements in the market is clear and yet there were reasons for optimism for manager Miguel Ángel Russo provided most notably from Boca’s academy products.

None more so than 19-year-old Cristian Medina, who at a time when Boca’s midfield was looking sluggish and devoid of energy, provided a much-needed shot in the arm.

The Argentina under-17 and Boca youth team star had long been talked about as a player of enormous potential but had to wait until February of this year for his senior debut in the blue and gold.

That 27-minute cameo against Gimnasia gave a glimpse of Medina’s quality with the teenager immediately comfortable at La Bombonera, completing 17 of his 18 passes.

Those impressive passing stats have barely dropped since and after 18 games this season between the Copa De La Liga and the Copa Libertadores, Medina has maintained a pass completion of above 90%.

The success rate understandably drops when Medina is passing over long distances (66.7%) or into the final third (78.3%) but the teenager has shown a decent range and intelligence in keeping possession and finding space.

With fellow academy graduate Alan Varela often operating in the deeper, holding role, Medina has been excellent in finding those spaces linking midfield and attack. At times, Boca has sorely lacked over the past few months with Edwin Cardona missing spells, Carlos Tevez playing further forward in place of a center forward, and no one else filling that midfield gap.

Not that Medina is an advanced playmaker but rather his spatial awareness and energy to break forward from deep has allowed him to fulfill almost that function at times for Boca. Averaging 3.02 interceptions and 6.24 recoveries (almost half of which have been in the opposition half), Medina is a useful ball winner but alongside a more conservative defensive midfielder can play with the freedom of going box-to-box.

Comfortable on the ball allows Medina to operate in crowded areas of the pitch while also allowing him to resist any opposition press and retain possession. This makes the transition into attack smoother and has allowed Boca to move the ball quicker to those players capable of hurting opponents on the counter, like Sebastián Villa.

And these characteristics have allowed Boca to utilize Medina’s versatility across a variety of roles. The 19-year-old can sit deep, can make those forward bursts but can equally drift out wide onto the right when required.

The quality of the youngsters passing can make him an asset delivering crosses even if he doesn’t possess the kind of outright pace to go on the outside of the full-back to the byline, as a natural wide player would.

The forward runs particularly when Boca have been playing Carlos Tevez as the most advanced player in the line-up have provided the team with depth. This has made life more difficult for opposition defenses who would otherwise be able to man-mark and follow Tevez deeper only otherwise wary of Sebastián Villa’s pace into space behind the last defender.

This type of run beyond Tevez produced Medina’s sole senior goal to date and while his direct goal involvement (one goal and one assist) isn’t particularly impressive the midfielder should add to that with an extended run in Boca’s first team.

A positive Covid-19 test cut short Medina’s involvement and Boca are expected to go into the transfer market ahead of the second half of 2021 and the knockout phase of the Copa Libertadores but the midfielder has done more than enough to remain central to Miguel Ángel Russo’s plans.

At only 19, Medina has time to develop at La Bombonera, yet there will be plenty of scouts keeping tabs over the next few months.

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