In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Velez Sarsfield’s 19-year-old midfielder, Maximo Perrone

Velez made it through to the Copa Libertadores semi-finals for the first time in 11 years after a 4-2 aggregate victory over Talleres.

It was fitting that 18-year-old Julian Fernandez scored the decisive goals in each leg as Velez are a team built around their crop of exciting youngsters. Seven academy products featured in each of their semi-final ties, with five of them starting both games.

In a squad brimming with promise, the jewel in the Fortinero crown is deep-lying midfield maestro Maximo Perrone.

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On the Velez books since the age of six, Perrone first caught the eye at the 2019 Montaigu tournament, anchoring the Argentina U16 side that were crowned champions and beating an England side that included Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala in the final.

Former boss Mauricio Pellegrino handed Perrone his senior debut for Velez as recently as March this year but ‘Maxi’ has quickly established himself as a regular, making 17 league appearances and starting every one of their 10 Libertadores games.

Perrone peels off his man at the back post to thump in a header for a historic winner in injury time.

His performance in a must-win group game versus Nacional demonstrated just what a key player he has already become for Velez.

Perrone was the player with most recoveries (14), most passes made (46) and most successful through balls (4/5) and even popped up with an injury-time winner whilst wearing the captain’s armband.

Typically deployed at the base of the midfield, Perrone is a ball-playing Argentinian ‘number 5’ in the mold of Fernando Redondo, always looking for the ball and orchestrating play from deep.

The 19-year-old possesses the tactical intelligence to play either as a lone anchor or a double pivot, usually alongside fellow academy graduate Nicolas Garayalde and boasts the maturity and confidence to drop between the center-backs and be the man to dictate the tempo and initiate his team’s attacks.

Perrone plays the ball back to the center-back before arcing his run to receive the return ball. Perrone invites the press from the opponent but opens his body up and drops a shoulder to swerve away from the challenge and leave the River player trailing in his wake.

It’s not surprising to learn that his reference point is Sergio Busquets and Perrone has the same elegant, unhurried swagger. His positioning, body shape when receiving the ball and reading of the game always appears to give him time and space, seemingly already one move ahead of everyone else.

What’s more, his regular scanning, calmness under pressure and excellent first touch, make him very press resistant and allows him to draw opponents and beat the press either with clever, quick touches to get his side moving forward.

Perrone moves into a position in anticipation of receiving the ball from the center-back. He checks over his shoulder to see how close the opponent is and also to check the free center-back position, hinting that he will be the recipient of the next pass.
Perrone has another couple of scans, aware he is being closely followed and also checks to his left so as to analyze all the potential options for the ball that is on its way to his feet.
Perrone’s awareness, constant scanning and first touch allow him to beat the press and drive forward into midfield to set up a promising attack.

It is on the ball though where Perrone really comes alive. With his wand of a left foot, Perrone combines elegance and efficiency, not only recycling possession well but also displaying an excellent range of passing.

This season he has averaged an 87.55% pass accuracy and typically has made 46.39 passes per 90. Crucially it’s the speed in which he moves the ball, giving Velez a real dynamism in their build up play, plus the fact that he’s always on the move to look for a return ball.

Perrone plays a quick one-two to shift the ball away from the Lanus midfielders, before digging out a lovely clipped ball out to the right winger who is in lots of space.

Far from padding the stats circulating the ball in low-risk areas, Perrone is very progressive with his passing. Having started his youth career as a playmaker, he is always looking to break the lines and get Velez on the front foot, as demonstrated by his 6.32 progressive passes per 90 this season.

Perrone is technically very good and, while not much of a dribbler over distance, can wriggle out of danger with his Velcro close control, while also using his intelligence and movement to get into good advanced positions on occasion.

Having already started the move but stepping in to win the ball, Perrone receives the return pass and gallops forward. As he is being closed down, he unleashes an inch-perfect through ball with the outside of his left boot to set up the opening goal of the game.

Perhaps an under-appreciated side to Perrone’s game, given his ball-playing style, is his defensive qualities. While there were doubts about his durability when he was coming through the youth divisions, he has made the step up to the physical side of men’s football better than expected.

This season he has averaged 8.49 defensive duels and 10.8 recoveries per 90, while his mobility and ability to operate further forward has also seen him clock up 6.32 counter-pressing recoveries per 90 too.

Perrone can sometimes be somewhat passive defensively and there is still plenty of room for improvement in that area but, for a player whose game is more defined when in possession, his defensive contributions are nonetheless an example of how well-rounded his game is at this early stage of his career.

Another extremely positive sign is Perrone’s character. Having already captained the club as a teenager, Perrone has constantly displayed leadership maturity beyond his years and is unafraid to bark orders at more senior teammates.

Decisive late contributions such as the goal versus Nacional and the assist versus Talleres also point to a big game mentality and the ability to influence games at clutch moments.

As the ball is played out to the left, Perrone spots a game in the half-space which is being created as the full-back goes to engage the Velez left winger. He puts on the after burners with a line-breaking run into the penalty box.
Perrone receives the ball from the winger and shapes to have a shot on goal. However, he actually cuts the ball back with a no-look pass, right into the path of the unmarked Julian Fernandez, who sweeps the ball into the net for a last-minute winner.

Perrone and Velez will now have to raise their game again and rise to the occasion when they face Flamengo in the Libertadores semi-finals in what will be a fascinating test of the young midfielder’s capabilities against one of the most star-studded teams on the continent.

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