If ever in doubt about a young player’s ability, the word ‘raw’ is a pretty good term to use. Chances are players that are described in this way possess many attributes needed to move on to a higher level, or have a career towards the top of the game, but are missing a few ingredients that will propel them in that direction. And if you are calling them raw, it probably means you are unsure whether they will ever develop the missing facets to their game.
Cagliari’s Victor Ibarbo, who scored a hat-trick at the weekend, is not far from fitting this description, so let’s get that word out there quickly – Ibarbo is a raw talent. There is so much to like about him, particularly physically where has more or less all the aspects you would look for in a modern forward – pace, power, height and all the rest.
“Ibarbo, when played on the right, is devastating if in form, though I have seen that he can also play in the centre,” claimed Coach Ivo Pulga back in December. “Now he has found the small details he was missing, he’s discovered speed over the first few metres.”
Pace, pace, pace – there is no guessing what the Colombian’s biggest asset is. And although none of the three goals he scored against Sampdoria on Sunday were a demonstration of this, a lot of his best performances have come where he has been able to stretch his legs and give defensive lines problems in behind – Milan and Roma this season spring to mind.
Atalanta Coach Stefano Colantuono described Ibarbo, along with Marco Sau and Thiago Ribeiro, as a player that can “kill you” with his speed with and without the ball, warning his players in the process.
But therein lies the danger for the 23-year-old – he is becoming known for his pace and not much else. The reason for that is because once he gets to the penalty area he is rarely decisive – games like Sunday are all too infrequent. Forget comparisons with the players at better teams and instead compare him to teammate Sau, who is also quick but has managed to score 11 goals this season. Ibarbo has four, three of which came on Sunday.
Sau of course has the luxury of playing centrally, while Ibarbo spends most of his time out wide. Yet the two have created the same number of goals – a measly one – as each other over the course of the season. Ibarbo’s numbers do not match the rest of his game, and for everything Pulga thinks he has added since last season, the productivity has not improved.
As long as that stays the case, he will remain one of those players whose name will appear on a list of possible dangermen on the preview sheets, but who won’t definitively be the one to watch.