Jose Cifuentes is a 23-year-old midfielder who plays for LAFC in MLS. LAFC snapped him up in 2020 from Ecuadorian side Universidad Catolica. Cifuentes is just shy of 80 MLS appearances at the time of writing but has broken through as one of the league’s elite players during the 2022 season, making a strong case to be the league’s MVP. Cifuentes has had some tentative links to European clubs and it would not be at all surprising if there is a strong interest during the January transfer window. In addition to his MLS exploits, Cifuentes has also played 9 times for Ecuador.
Cifuentes is an attacking box-to-box midfielder. His attacking output is nothing short of elite relative to his position. He makes great runs into the box and this allows him to get off a huge amount of shots inside the box for a centre midfielder. He also has really excellent vision which helps him to set up teammates. In general, he is a huge danger from the edge of the penalty area.
Cifuentes is also effective in deeper areas of the pitch. He usually prefers to position himself higher up the field and receive passes rather than be in charge of the build-up. But when he does drop deeper he is extremely efficient at getting the ball forward. His aforementioned vision helps him to play a lot of progressive passes. He can make decisions quickly and that suits LAFC’s transition-heavy attack very well. He is a very direct passer and that does come with some downsides, namely that sometimes he gives the ball away trying to make a Hollywood pass, but the benefits of his ball progression far outweigh the drawbacks. He is also a good ball carrier and dribbler. He is very quick at carrying the ball and good at getting out of tight spaces.
Cifuentes is ok defensively. He puts in a fair amount of work tracking back and is a decent 1v1 defender. He is definitely not a #6, and I would even be hesitant to play him in a double pivot. But for a guy who is primarily an attacking player he does a perfectly fine job of defending.
At 23, you would be signing Cifuentes for what he can do right now as opposed to his potential. He is at least in the top five best players in MLS this year, if not the best, so I certainly think he could handle himself in the top-5 leagues. He would be a good fit on a team that plays with a three-man midfield and wants an attacking #8.