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Franco Fagundez: Nacional star has potential to perform on Libertadores stage

Nacional's 22-year-old attacking midfielder certainly caught the eye in 2022. The Uruguayan scored ten domestic goals, averaging a goal every three games.

Yet to add to his tally in 2023, it's been a slow start to the season for Franco Fagundez, but there's plenty of time yet for him to recapture last year's form.

Having only scored four less than the club's top goalscorer Emanuel Gigliotti last season, there's nothing to panic about just yet.

The man behind the striker

Standing at six-foot one, Fagundez towers over most of his opponents, often found waiting to carve out an opportunity on the edge of the 18-yard box.

He slots perfectly into Nacional manager's Alvaro Gutierrez formation - almost as if he's built the team around his young star. Gutierrez prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation, in which Fagundez occupies the central attacking role in behind the striker.

Fagundez had the luxury of learning his trade alongside Luis Suarez last campaign, who returned to his boyhood club to help win them their 49th Primera Division title.

Despite playing with one of the world's best strikers, Fagundez often makes finishing look easy himself, largely down to his intelligence to burst into the box when the ball is in a wide position. There's a lot more to be said about his tap ins when he is able to find the kind of space he does time and time again.

Yet he's also clever enough to know when to hold his run and receive the ball on the edge of the box after defenders have darted back to defend their goal.

We saw him do just that in the Sudamericana when Nacional beat Union 2-0 last year. He almost guided his delicate strike into the corner of the goal from the edge of the 18-yard box.

Don't let that calmness fool you, however. The 22-year-old isn't afraid to drive the ball home from distance, who doesn't need a second invite to take aim from 25 yards out.

His vision is also excellent. Fagundez enjoys dropping deep to collect the ball, before looking to release his wingers into the channels or playing a pass directly in behind the full-back.

In order to execute his through balls, composure is required. Worry not, as this is one of his best assets.

Whether collecting the ball in a dangerous area or helping out defensively, Fagundez is one of the coolest men on the pitch.

The Libertadores awaits

Back testing himself in the Libertadores, the group stage presents another opportunity to show what he's capable of. After featuring in four matches in the tournament last season, the experience he gained may just provide him with a springboard to improve this time round.

Nacional have an excellent chance of progressing to the knockout stage, and Fagundez has the potential to be at the heart of that.

First up, Nacional travel to Caracas in Venezuela to face Metropolitanos on Tuesday 4th April, before a home match against Colombian side Independiente Medellin two weeks later. Both matches present opportunities in which Fagundez can finally open his account in 2023.

All of this leads to the question: Could there potentially be a big move for the Uruguayan?

It wouldn’t be a surprise, especially if the attacker is able to utilise the stage he's about to step on to his advantage. Another consistent season domestically won't do him any harm, either.

With 2022 being his breakthrough year, it's exciting to see what's next for Fagundez and who's potentially keeping an eye on him.


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