In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Lanús’ promising winger Pedro De La vega.
“Usually when you’re not training with the first team, the speed is different, but the truth is, he is a kid who was ready for it.” Eventual champions Racing Club may have scrapped to a narrow win in their September 2018 meeting with Lanús, but manager Eduardo Coudet was suitably impressed by a 17-year-old debutant for the opposition.
Everything changed for Pedro De La Vega from that point. Catapulted from Lanús’ youth sides to the first team without so much as an appearance for the reserves, the teenager went from anonymous schoolboy to the talk of Argentina’s sports media overnight.
An ovation from his classmates on Monday morning went viral and interviewers scrambled for opportunities to speak to this shaggy-haired, baby-faced sensation.
For many teenagers, the situation might have been overwhelming, yet Pepo took it in his stride. Further evidence of the grounded individual who had the intelligence and maturity to study at a neighboring school rather than on-site with the academy.
A confident senior debut against Racing displayed not only these mental characteristics but immediate signs of what De La Vega brings to the game. Operating largely out wide, the youngster looks to get the ball into his feet and will ordinarily look to come inside probing for gaps rather than go to the byline and cross.
With quick feet and well balanced, De La Vega changes direction swiftly and is able to beat his marker but also links play well in those wide areas, often spotting passes into the half-space or for the overlapping full-back.
These darting runs on either side of the pitch create space for teammates but as yet, manager Luis Zubeldía has opted to use De La Vega as an impact player off the bench rather than a regular starter.
Those fleeting appearances may explain perhaps the less than startling numbers in Argentina’s Superliga but have not curbed the interest of those paying attention. Always positive and looking to move the ball forward, De La Vega averages 9.45 dribbles, 3.7 shots and his tenacious workrate leads to 4.75 recoveries in the opposition half per 90 minutes.
The eye for a pass and technique to unlock defences should only see De La Vega’s end product improve in time as his ability to find space in the inside channel creates chances.
A couple of assists for club and country while on under-20 duty not an indicator of the creator that De La Vega is or could become.
As a goalscorer, things have already started to improve and his four Superliga goals last season were not only the teenager’s best return but came from an expected goals metric of 2.95. It’s worth noting that those four goals coming from 17 appearances but only one of those a start in Zubeldia’s seventh-placed finishing side.
Giants Boca Juniors and River Plate both passed up the opportunity to take De La Vega at the age of eleven but Pepo is proving once more that there can be real quality that falls between the cracks.
A sharp progression from the AFA’s outstanding youth talent in 2017 and dazzling senior debut to now a host of European clubs all chasing Lanús’ jewel. El Granate will hope to make the most of De La Vega for a little while longer but should make a smart profit when the time comes.