Independiente del Valle are becoming a more and more prestigious club in South America, producing loads of players for the highest divisions in Europe. The majority of the players starting for the Ecuadorian national team have received their football education in the Independiente del Valle youth academy. The most significant examples are Gonzalo Plata (Sporting CP), Moises Caicedo (Brighton & Hove Albion), Angelo Preciado (KRC Genk), Piero Hincapié (Talleres, now at Leverkusen), William Pacho (Antwerp) and Alan Franco (Atletico-MG, now at Charlotte FC). The Ecuadorian club are notorious for producing technically and tactically smart players. When an important player leaves the club, they often fill up that place internally. For example, when Angelo Preciado left, José Hurtado stepped up and deserved a move to Red Bull Bragantino. When they do not have a youth player that’s ready for the first team, they buy players who are already playing in the Ecuadorian league or Argentine players who are playing in the Argentinian second division. This has been a very successful strategy for the current champions.
Independiente del Valle always play possession-based, attacking football trying to score a lot of goals. Opponents often sit deep against the winners of the 2019 edition of the Copa Sudamericana. Their main team, under the stewardship of former Benfica B manager Renato Paiva, often play in a 3-5-2, 3-4-2-1 or 4-3-3 formation. They have had the most success with the first two formations. Youth teams of Independiente del Valle do not copy that exact formation. Independiente Juniors, the second team of Independiente del Valle, usually play in a 4-3-3, while the same applies for Independiente del Valle under 18.
The lastest Independiente del Valle player to move to Europe is Patrickson Delgado, as he recently completed his move to (Jong) Ajax. The midfielder will be loaned for 1,5 years and Ajax have an option to buy the Ecuadorian. Patrickson Delgado was born in Ibarra, Ecuador on the 17th of October in 2003. The Ecuadorian came through Independiente del Valle’s youth academy but had not made his debut for the first team of Independiente del Valle yet. Patrickson Delgado mainly played for the second team in Serie B, the second tier in Ecuador, or for the under 18’s in important matches. He made his debut for Independiente Juniors at the age of just 16 and already played 41 matches for the team that plays in the second tier of Ecuadorian football. Patrickson Delgado is a versatile player, as I have seen him play as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder, left winger and right-winger. I think Patrickson Delgado’s best position is the left central midfield position in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-2-3 and I will solely focus on that position in this player report.
In the first phase of the build-up, he either dropped deep or stayed close to the halfway line. When he dropped deep, he did well to move between the lines and always open up passing lanes for both central defenders, moving centrally between the first line of pressure from the opponent. Patrickson Delgado showed a good sense of positioning when operating in this area. During the times that he received the ball in this area, he would most of the time either play a pass back to one of the two central defenders or play a first-time pass to one of the other midfielders. This was often effective, but in one situation he tried a backheel pass but failed to find his teammate (miscommunication) which led to a dangerous situation in front of Independiente del Valle’s goal.
It also happened sometimes that he was not being put under pressure occasionally, but what he did wrong in some of those situations is that he did not scan and assess that he had space to turn. Some of his passes with his left foot back to the central defenders were a bit bouncy too, which slowed down the build-up of Independiente del Valle under 18. Very rarely he tried to dribble past his opponent in the first phase of the build-up. This was very successful, as he has very good acceleration and strength in the duels to stay in possession.
For Independiente Juniors, he more often played in a more advanced position. Then he would open up passing lanes at the right time for the central defenders while staying near the halfway line. When receiving the pass, Patrickson Delgado proved to have a great first touch. The Ecuadorian deals very well with powerful passes, but also with aerial passes. In the situations where Patrickson Delgado operated near the halfway line, he proved to have very good short passing. His passes were played with the right power, direction and speed. Delgado’s short passing was very consistent.
Patrickson Delgado often played smart, forward passes which were slightly risky, but he rarely lost the ball when playing a forward pass in this area. The Ecuadorian 18-year-old often picks out the right pass. He is also capable of linking up with his teammates in tight spaces, controlling the ball well and always knowing where to pass it to next. The Ecuadorian loves to play one-twos in this area. Patrickson Delgado also liked to switch play when being put under pressure, either by playing a cross pass or by playing a long pass with more speed. His crosspassing technique is really good, he always puts the right power, speed and height on the ball and does this consistently too.
Playing as an advanced central midfielder, Patrickson Delgado loves to make runs in behind. He has a very good eye for space and exploits this very well. It often happens that the left-winger of Independiente del Valle under 18/Independiente Juniors drops deep, dragging the oppositions right-back with him. This opens up space for central midfielders to run into and Patrickson Delgado exploits this perfectly. The Ecuadorian has good acceleration and pace over a long distance which also helps him to get away from his marker. When Patrickson Delgado receives the ball in this area, he either tries to cut back to his stronger right foot or he tries to get past his opponent on the outside.
The 18-year-old is capable of dribbling past his opponent both on the in- and outside and often succeeds in doing so. He mainly cuts back to his right foot, but when he needs to use his left foot he is more than capable of delivering a good, chipped cross into the box. During the times that he cuts back to his right foot, he assesses his options in the box but he mostly plays a backwards pass or carries the ball inside before shooting the ball towards goal. Patrickson Delgado has a good shooting technique, but most of his shots are just going wide and over the goal even though he strikes the ball relatively well. Patrickson Delgado also uses one-twos to get past opponents in tight spaces on the wing. He then plays the pass into the winger before continuing his run and getting past his opponent in this way.
According to this site, Patrickson Delgado is only 1,73m tall and 64kg, but I think that’s outdated information. From what I’ve seen he seems slightly taller and a bit heavier, even though he has a slim build. He seems to have a lot of power in the duels, especially when he uses his good acceleration to get past opponents. Patrickson Delgado has good close control in tight spaces and most of the time manages to play out of pressure in the final third by using his good close control, strength in the duels and acceleration. This is why it was surprising to me to read that he would only be 64kg and 1,73m tall.
When operating in a central position during the times that Independiente del Valle Juniors/Under 18 are in possession in the final third, Patrickson Delgado often chose to stay back to pick up the ball when it was cleared by the opponents. Not only that, but he also offered as an extra, safe option to pass to when his teammates were put under pressure. In the situations in which Patrickson Delgado received possession in that area, he would be patient on the ball and either play a cross pass to the wing, a sideways short pass to one of the central midfielders or an over the top through pass to a teammate who makes a run in behind.
As mentioned before, both his short- and crosspassing are very accurate and consistent, but his over the top through passing was less consistent. Even though he also has a good technique when playing these passes, he sometimes hit it with too much power which led to the ball being played out for a goal-kick for the opponent. In some situations, Patrickson Delgado was smart to draw fouls whenever he saw that he could lose possession. Also, he is a set-piece specialist for Independiente del Valle under 18, taking free kicks and penalties. He has a good shooting technique and always remains calm when taking free kicks or penalties. This was one of the decisive penalties he took:
Independiente del Valle often dominate possession, which means that there are not many moments in which their opponent control possession for a long time. This means that there are also not that many moments in which Patrickson Delgado could be judged in his defensive qualities, especially as he often was allowed to stay forward and play next to the striker out of possession. The only moment in which he played as a defensive midfielder and had to defend counter-attacks often was against Cumbaya when playing for Independiente del Valle juniors. For the under 18’s, he did not have to (I assume) track back and he was posted next to the striker. In some situations he did track back, but not at full speed. Only when he assessed that the counter-attack by Independiente del Valle’s opponent could be dangerous, he sprinted back at full speed and helped the defence.
For the B-team, he was very positively aggressive in loose ball duels and made sure to not lose those duels. In the final minutes of the game for the B-team against Cumbaya, Independiente del Valle were chasing the match and Patrickson Delgado was playing as a defensive midfielder. Even though he got dragged out wide quite often, he did well to cut passing lanes and intercept passes sometimes. On one occasion he failed to spot a run in behind, but thanks to his good recovery speed he managed to tackle his opponent before carrying the ball forward aggressively. In the 1v1 duels, he sometimes overcommitted which led to him losing the duel. He should have been more patient in some duels and not attempted to recover possession as quickly as possible.
Patrickson Delgado has good stamina. Playing as a central midfielder, he keeps making runs in behind. The Ecuadorian has decent agility, balance and coordination. In the ground duels, he does not get pushed to the ground often and he can keep his balance well when contesting a duel. His right foot is stronger than his left foot, but his left foot is not bad. It should definitely be developed at Ajax though. His tactical understanding, especially his spatial awareness and positional sense is really good for his age. Patrickson Delgado sometimes has some miscommunication with his teammates, which can be seen when both players don’t go for a ball or when they are moving in front of each other. His decision-making is good and his aggressiveness in the duels for the B-team is more than sufficient. Delgado also seems very confident and he is capable of taking responsibility, taking the decisive penalties in two cup finals. One of the two went in, but the second penalty also was over the line, but the referee did not see it.
Moving from the second team of Independiente del Valle is a very big step and Ajax’s construction for the signing of Patrickson Delgado implies that they see the Ecuadorian midfielder as a low-risk high-reward signing. Patrickson Delgado will start at Jong Ajax as mentioned by Ajax in their article. The Ecuadorian will probably get the time to adapt to Europe and Ajax until the summer, before (Jong) Ajax start having any expectations from Patrickson Delgado. Tactically, technically, physically and psychologically Patrickson Delgado looks decent, but obviously he has to improve in every single aspect to ever make it into the first team of Ajax. I think he will have the most trouble adapting to the defensive positioning and how to put pressure on the opponent.
However, even though it is such a big step and it is always a huge question how a young South American will adapt to Europe, especially when he is on his own in a new country, I think it could be a very good gamble by Ajax. It is to be hoped that the Spanish speaking players at (Jong) Ajax will help Patrickson Delgado to get acquainted with the city. There was a rumour that Oscar Zambrano and Mathias Solis (both are Ecuadorians at LDU Quito) will have a trial at Ajax U18/Jong Ajax, so that would also be great for Patrickson Delgado.