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Enzo Barrenechea: Everything you need to know about Aston Villa's new Argentine

Enzo Barrenechea

For the second time in his fledgling career Enzo Barrenechea is making a significant move but one which slips under the radar.

Peter Coates, Editor of Golazo Argentino, shares his thoughts and insight exclusively with The Copa Club.

Enzo Barrenechea: Player Profile

The 23-year-old is poised to join Aston Villa’s ambitious project which last season saw the Villians clinch a Champions League spot, yet the headline is Brazilian star Douglas Luiz heading in the opposite direction to Juventus.

In any other situation the addition of the young Argentinian midfielder would be another astute transfer of huge potential for Villa. Instead the talk will largely focus on the loss that Douglas Luiz represents and the harsh reality of the Premier League’s PSR rules.

And so it is important to put the outgoing to one side, avoid any comparison to the established, 26-year-old Brazilian international and focus solely on Barrenechea.

The Córdoba-born talent is coming off the back of a breakthrough year, at senior level at any rate, having spent last season on loan at Frosinone. Although the Giallazzurri weren’t able to avoid the drop from Serie A, Barrenechea made 36 appearances and was widely praised for his role at the base of the midfield.

His defensive qualities particularly marked him out and with 5.88 interceptions per 90, Barrenechea was among one of the best ball winners across the league.

Positionally intelligent the youngster demonstrated the ability to read the game in order to claim possession, yet when needed, physical enough too to steal the ball through force. 11.97 recoveries per 90 ranking Barrenechea second across all central and defensive midfielders in Serie A.

While it may be these statistics that leap off the page, his passing is also excellent.

Dropping to receive the ball from the centre backs, often under pressure, and distributing forward into the midfield with an almost 90% success rate.

His impact higher up the pitch might be limited and therefore any similarity at this point is arguably more with Boubacar Kamara, who Villa lost to an ACL injury back in February, rather than Douglas Luiz.

However, that isn’t to suggest it isn’t an aspect of Barrenechea’s game which couldn’t develop under the guidance of Unai Emery.

High praise from a young age

Certainly those who worked closely with Enzo at boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys would think so. “Back in the under-15s he already looked like he would be an extraordinary player,” former coach Carlos Polenta told La Capital.

“Tall with fabulous technique in a way that dazzled on the pitch. Great in the air, very good shooting and a lot of intelligence. All the characteristics to play in Europe. We had no doubt, he was always a crack.”

Newell’s certainly know a thing or two about nurturing young players and identifying those that could play at the highest level. Unlike most of the other graduates from the famous academy, Barrenechea isn’t a Rosario native but was instead picked up from his local side in Villa María, Córdoba.

Standing out in a youth tournament, the youngster opted for Newell’s over River Plate, Lanús and Belgrano and never looked back.

That’s not to say Barrenechea has had things easy. His father served several years in prison when still only a boy and so his mother had to work two jobs to support the family. Yet despite this the teenager was not only able to thrive at Newell’s but also represent Argentina at youth level.

It was while captaining the Newell’s reserves that current Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni called up the 17-year-old to form part of his U20 squad and having been earmarked as one of the best young talents in the country, Juventus made their move.

With the teenager yet to even make his senior Newell’s debut it was a somewhat inconspicuous transfer for a fee in the region of €3 million.

An initial move to Swiss club Sion in order to both acclimatise to European football and complete paperwork followed, before eventually Barrenechea would be incorporated into Juventus’ youth side towards the end of 2020.

The early impression was positive and alongside compatriot Matías Soulé, the young winger snatched from Vélez Sarsfield, Juve could afford themselves a pat on the back for what looked to be two inspired bits of youth recruitment.

Barrenechea’s earlier displayed resolve and mental fortitude would again be tested six months later when the midfielder suffered an ACL tear which would rule him out for nine months and yet when he returned to action in February 2022 it was as if he had never been away.

A key loan move

By the end of that year, Barrenechea was in Massimiliano Allegri’s first team plans and made his senior debut as a late substitute against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

While regular minutes were harder to come by, Barrenechea had made the step up and would remain on the fringes.

The loan to Frosinone for 2023/24 was no doubt one which benefitted all parties - Barrenechea finally got that first team experience, despite their relegation Frosinone acquired a midfielder of top flight quality and in theory Juventus would reclaim a more accomplished and proficient version.

Incoming Juventus manager Thiago Motta reportedly hoped that would be the case but instead it will be Aston Villa reaping the rewards.

Patience will of course be required, as it would with any young player making the switch to another league and another culture, and no doubt Unai Emery will be hesitant in putting any kind of vast expectation on Barrenechea’s shoulders immediately.

That however shouldn’t dampen excitement, the potential is clear and if Enzo is able to fulfil that the frustration of this summer’s PSR enforced moves will be greatly relieved.

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