by Tom Lees - 8th December 2015
Imagine being a young Argentine midfielder, trying to make your way in the game you love and you find yourself learning directly from one of the legends of the sport, Juan Roman Riquelme, this dream scenario was presented to Leandro Paredes at Boca Juniors. It speaks volumes for the potential of the player that he was able to learn from a great like Riquelme at a young age, but if you are seen as his eventual successor, then it was the perfect situation.
A classy, ball playing midfielder, young Paredes made his Boca Juniors debut at the age of just 16 against Argentinos Juniors. Over the next 3 years he would go on to make 29 appearances for Boca, scoring 5 impressive goals. Although these figures appear quite meagre compared to similar players globally, it was a case of quality rather than quantity. Showing a fine ability to pick a pass, much like his mentor Riquelme, Paredes also demonstrated a fierce low curling drive which made up a large percentage of his goals. His reputation was growing quickly, and by 2013 some of Europe’s big clubs were starting to take serious interest in the talent.
During the 2013/14 season a transfer was agreed between Boca Juniors and AS Roma of Serie A, for a fee of $4.5 million, however the move hit a block as Roma had already reached their maximum quota for non-EU players. Instead Paredes was temporarily loaned to fellow Italian side Chievo Verona for the remainder of the season, a pretty uninspiring move as the player would only make one appearance during his time there. Thankfully for Paredes, at the end of the season, on July 19th 2014, he finally moved to AS Roma on a loan deal at first, being made permanent the following summer.
Again Paredes became a victim of a lack of playing time during his season at Roma, as coach Rudi Garcia adopted a rotation policy that wasn’t to everybody’s taste. However, in the 13 appearances Paredes did make for club, he showed the class that many feel will help him become a stalwart in the Roma side for years to come. At the end of the 2014/15 season, and with a permanent transfer to Roma signed, Paredes was given the chance to gain regular first team football on loan at Empoli. This move looks to have lit a fire inside the young Argentine playmaker.
With a string of fine performances, Paredes has found himself to be a permanent fixture in the Empoli midfield. He is gaining more experience, more confidence and is now dictating the game around him reminiscent of the great Riquelme he learned from. One of these performances came in an eye catching display against his parent club, a performance that has Roma fans eagerly awaiting his return at the end of the season.
So what does the future hold for Paredes? Well with Kevin Strootmans continuing injury woes, and rumours gathering pace about the future of Miralem Pjanic, the time could be right next season for Paredes to take up a place in the Rome midfield growing into the player we all expect him to be. As far as Internationally, although he has not represented Argentina since Under 17 level in 2011, do not be surprised if his performances for Empoli are rewarded with full International recognition before the end of the season. He is on the cusp of greatness, with a little bit of luck, hard work and game time to show his class, he will surely get there.