A product of the famed Club Atlético Boca Juniors academy, 21-year-old Alan Varela is now a name on the lips of many-a European football fan and club scout alike. Despite initially struggling to nail down a permanent starting spot in the Boca line-up after his breakthrough, the young defensive midfielder now finds himself a permanent fixture in the Xeneizes’ side. His outstanding performance level in both the 2022 Argentine Copa de la Liga & Liga Professional proved a key factor in securing both titles for his boyhood club.
Although Varela only twice featured for Argentina’s youth teams – both U20 appearances back in 2019 – I’d be absolutely dumbfounded should he not end up a fully-fledged Argentina international in the not-so-distant future.
Varela is a rare commodity in the sense that he’s at his best when deployed as a lone pivot at the base of midfield. At 1.77m tall, he may not be the towering presence that some may feel more comfortable with shielding their side’s back-line, but the fact that he’s not a monstrous physical specimen doesn’t detract in the slightest from his ability to carry out his role. Brutish upper-body strength and an impressive engine enable him to thrive in duels and cover ground proficiently.
Out of possession, Varela offers a level of security that enables his fellow midfielders to advance and take risks on the ball. In spite of his tender age, he displays a real maturity and intelligence in regards to his positioning and general reading of the game. Varela frequently snuffs out opposition transitions due to the aforementioned qualities.
Anyone who’s watched Varela will tell you that he’s partial to a full-blooded challenge or two. Though, for the most part, he’s able to time said challenges to perfection. His ability to recover the ball and immediately feed one of his more offensive players with a well-weighted pass is an attribute that’ll undoubtedly enable him to thrive at higher levels throughout his career.
One of the biggest compliments I can pay to Varela is; he always wants the football, and really does take care of it once he’s got it. Never seems panicked when it’s at his feet. Clever drops of the shoulder to deceive an opponent allow him seemingly endless time on the ball. His passing may not be overly-extravagant, but he just keeps everything ticking over nicely. This isn’t to say that he’s averse to a line-breaking pass or a raking, cross field switch of play. He most certainly has both in his locker. Varela’s capacity to recycle the ball and sustain pressure makes his game perfectly-suited to a possession-heavy team. The willingness he displays to swiftly release the ball – in just one or two touches – ensures there’s seldom a stagnation in tempo.
For such a young man, Varela’s tactical security and general understanding are pretty impressive. A vital cog in Boca’s first-phase buildup, he regularly drifts into a fullback role in an attempt to create more advantageous passing angles, and in turn, evade the opposition press.
An aggressive, diligent, industrious midfielder with a certain elegance and finesse when in possession; that’s how I’d describe Alan Varela. It’s no surprise to see him linked with the likes of Barcelona, Ajax & Bayer Leverkusen. Despite only being 21-years-old, he’s a player who, in my opinion, would need little time to adapt to top level football. He’s certainly as much ‘one for the now’, as he is ‘one for the future’, in the sense that he’s more than capable of improving many-a Champions League-level team, whilst also having not come close to yet reaching his ceiling. With a release clause of just €15m, another absolutely mouthwatering bargain is on offer in Buenos Aires.