Monday August 31 2020
De Paul ready for his big chance

Rodrigo De Paul finally seems to be getting the big move he deserves after years of keeping Udinese afloat, writes Kaustubh Pandey.

Rodrigo De Paul is one of those players in Serie A who is certainly good enough for a bigger club than Udinese, but for some reason or another, it never really happens in any summer transfer window. It could have been Milan or even Fiorentina last summer and links with Inter are well-documented, but nothing concrete ever comes by for the Argentine. Now the time has perhaps come with Leeds United.

Despite playing for a club that barely avoids relegation every year, he still managed to put together 17 caps for Argentina, most of them in the starting XI, in a variety of midfield roles. Last summer’s contract renewal seemed more like an attempt to increase his value than a shot at keeping him at the Dacia Arena for the longer term. Whatever it was, the attempt was worth it for the club owned by the Pozzo family, as De Paul came across as one of the best chance creators in the 2019-20 Serie A campaign.

It was a typical Udinese season, as Igor Tudor got the sack in November and Luca Gotti took over the reins. While Gotti did a fair bit to keep the Friulani in the division, De Paul was once again their best player in the campaign. What is special about the 26-year-old Argentine isn’t just that he is one of the most creative players, but the fact that he has shown a consistent ability to play in multiple positions across the pitch.

Under Tudor, De Paul even played as a second striker early on in the 3-5-2 shape. The rest of the campaign saw him become the chief creator in an Udinese midfield that had two players who possess different styles - Seko Fofana and Rolando Mandragora. Fofana, who has now joined Lens in France, was given more of the freedom to carry the ball into attack and Mandragora sat deeper. De Paul was tasked with the job of often winning the ball back in the heart of the park and circulating it forward using his impeccable eye for a pass.

He contributed to 14 goals in all competitions last season, but those numbers don’t really say everything about how good a chance creator he is. De Paul came up with the fifth-best tally of shot creation actions in Serie A last season. He was eighth-best in the division for the most number of shot creation actions from live-ball situations.

If that isn’t enough, he is widely known to be one of the best creators from set-pieces as well, as he created four goals from set-pieces and was only behind Sandro Tonali, Erick Pulgar and Simone Verdi in that regard. He came up with a contribution like that in the very first game of the season, as his corner led to Udinese’s vital winner against Milan. He impressed in the club’s 2-0 victory over Roma, creating both the goals as well.

In the 2019-20 campaign, De Paul had the fourth-highest distance of progressive ball-carriers for players who had played a minimum of 1000 minutes. That is another strength of his, and playing in between Fofana and Mandragora allowed him to tap into it. That is a fair reflection of him as a player - he isn’t just progressive with his passing and creation, he is just as ambitious when carrying the ball too.

When Mandragora was missing against Juventus, De Paul stepped into the defensive midfield spot and set the tempo for an impressive 2-1 win over the Bianconeri. A lot of his versatility is down to how complete a player he is and can perform a variety of roles across the pitch. For the Argentine national team, he has even played in a wide position. Even under Udinese coaches Julio Velasquez and Davide Nicola, De Paul played on the left-wing and as second-striker multiple times, and he was still equally effective.

While playing in that position, he actually contributed to five goals in the opening four games. That is perhaps the hallmark of the sort of player De Paul is. He is adept enough to play in multiple positions across the pitch in various formations and systems. He has this skillset which has just about everything. He has the sort of graft in him that Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa would surely like and has flair and panache in abundance too.

All of that hardly makes links with the likes of Inter or Leeds United a surprise. He is someone who has kept Udinese afloat on many occasions in Serie A and if not for him, it can be said that Le Zebrette might already have been in Serie B - considering their constant habit of chopping and changing managers.

De Paul knows how to take initiative when the team really needs it. He has the skillset to perform multiple jobs on the pitch and never lets his team down. Those might be exactly the sort of talent that Bielsa would love in his player. A big move is long overdue for the 26-year-old.

Have your say...
Leeds historically and currently are a much bigger club than Udinese. The amount of press coverage in Britain and worldwide shows the reaction to Leeds returning to the EPL. Leeds have played some incredible football and are arguably the most exciting team to watch this season win or lose. Leeds should finish around 12th this season which after 16 years outside top flight football is a feat. The stadium is being upgraded, Bielsa a top managerial name in the world and Leeds need a top midfielder
on the 5th February, 2021 at 11:19am
Tough market to sell in, perhaps Pozzo can shift him towards EPL but I have the feeling he would gain more after 1 more season in which De Paul improves his stats. I would however feel sorry for him to leave Serie A.
on the 2nd September, 2020 at 1:23pm
Leeds would be a terrible move for DePaul, maybe apart from the money.
Shame no bigger team in Italy are in for him, so, guess he has little choice if wants to earn serious $$$
on the 1st September, 2020 at 11:08pm
leeds utd were a big club 20 years ago now they will probably do well to finish mid table. leeds have the potential to be great i wouldn't expect it any time soon this is a long project to rebuild this team. honestly if de paul is looking to play european football it is probably going to take 3-5 years at leeds if the project goes well. still on the positive side it is premier league football in a interesting attacking side who are making positive signings he could really excel.
on the 1st September, 2020 at 9:57pm
Leeds!? Are you having a laugh. If I was De Paul I would visit the place first. That would change anyone’s mind. However, if someone offered me millions to go and live in Leeds for a few years I suppose I would.
on the 1st September, 2020 at 7:06pm
A great text that describes De Paul as a player in a thorough way! Practically has all of his strengths & skills, almost looks like an advertisement, written by his agent!Haha
But, all jokes aside, the fact is that he's a great player who should've been in a bigger club by now, because Udinese allowed themselves to transform from a decent team,fighting for Europe, into relegation fighters!
But also, I completely agree with other guys who say the name of Leeds should't be even mentioned here!
on the 1st September, 2020 at 1:06pm
The problem De Paul has is all the big teams in Serie A already have players that cover his skill set or managers who wouldn't want him. Roma have Zaniolo/Pellegrini, Lazio have Alberto, AC Milan have Calhanoglu and now Tonali, Inter have Eriksen/Sensi, Napoli have Fabian/Zielinski, Atalanta have Pasalic/Malinovski. That leaves Juve as the obvious choice and he would fit in their but I feel like Juve should be after a much bigger name than RDP such as Aouar
on the 1st September, 2020 at 11:35am
I don't think Leeds have what it takes to push for top 6. They're certainly bringing a lot of energy, a lot of passion and obviously a massive & devoted support base but unfortunately support only gets you so far. If they retain all of their good players this year they will end up around 12-16th, if they sell players they will be relegated again. That's the harsh reality of the Premier League.
on the 1st September, 2020 at 10:33am
Dear Mr. Pandey... you do bring forward some solid arguments but, once again, I somehow fail to understand your "hook". First, one or two articles mentioning Juventus trying to become a "superclub" (when in fact they already are). And now you're stating "Rodrigo De Paul finally seems to be getting the big move he deserves" which is quite astonishing, really. I thought he was on the verge of signing for a club that is actually bigger than Udinese, not a mediocre side like Leeds...
on the 1st September, 2020 at 10:28am
Leeds are a massive club. Ferban hasn’t a clue about anything. Their worldwide fanbase is way bigger than Udinese, Leeds will be challenging the big 6 this year in the Premier League and we have Bielsa recognised as one of the best managers in the world. Watch us.
on the 1st September, 2020 at 10:05am
Leeds isnt a "big chance" rofl

He's changing midtable Serie A battle for mid table EPL battle

The only thing big will be his paycheck because they pay stupid amounts of mone for everyone
on the 1st September, 2020 at 10:03am
Leeds United a bigger club than Udinese? Historically of course but a club who scrambled promotion to PL after close to 20 years away from the first division? Udinese has been a stable European qualifier for most of those years...
on the 1st September, 2020 at 5:58am
Hard to believe people would think of Leeds as a "big move".

Just shows the laughable amount of hype around the epl.

Joining Leeds is certainly not a big move. And if he's any good at all, he'll aim a lot higher than that.
on the 1st September, 2020 at 2:38am

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