At the time of writing, Paolo Guajardo plays for the oldest club in South America, Santiago Wanderers. Valparaíso based Wanderers play in the Chilean second tier, where Guajardo broke through in the 2022 season. He was born in Viña del Mar, Chile on the 27th of May 2003. The winger can play on either flank, on the right as a traditional touchline winger or on the left as an inside forward. The Santiago Wanderers academy product looks set to make a move in the new year.
Standing at 179 cm tall with a normal/slim build, Guajardo is a physical mismatch for almost every full-back playing in Chile. He showed good strength and a decent heading ability as he scored a well-taken header in the first match against Brazil U20. It proved to be very difficult to dispossess him legally, thanks in part to his strength, as he won many fouls for Chile in dangerous areas. On average, the Brazilian players were faster than the Chileans so any Chilean that was too fast for the Brazilian defenders to track is noteworthy. Guajardo was one of the few fast Chilean players. His acceleration was very good and he burst ahead of opponents well and throughout the whole of both matches, demonstrating impressive fitness. Guajardo has quite long legs, so he can make long strides while running to reach higher speeds than shorter players. But he maintains great agility. Guajardo can weave elegantly through gaps and past players, he drops his shoulder and has the burst to gain separation. At only 19, Guajardo is a very impressive and physically mature winger that will only get faster and stronger with time.
What Guajardo is not, however, is a player that leans on his physical gifts to play football well. His technical game looked very polished. His passing was fine, but he didn’t do it much and that’s not his game. Guajardo is a player that looks to receive the ball and drive at the goal, gliding past anyone in his path. In addition to speed, agility and strength, Guajardo has a great first touch so he doesn’t waste time setting himself. He was very comfortable in tight spaces and had great close control so he could keep the ball or win a foul. His dangerous driving runs often won free kicks and also one penalty. While on the right, he put in a variety of dangerous crosses with his favoured right foot. His left foot looked fine but it would aid his unpredictability if he were to work on improving it. He finished his few chances well in the matches against Brazil. He scored a goal and looked dangerous throughout both matches. Aside from the fact that his passing is simple and effective rather than expansive and penetrative, he didn’t show many technical weaknesses. I think his game is less reliant on passing and more on carrying, and that is fine. Especially since that means he complements what fellow Chilean winger, Dario Osorio, wants to do with the ball.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Guajardo’s game is the mental side. If he didn’t defend and lacked awareness, I wouldn’t be too surprised, but that’s not the case. Guajardo showed great teamwork and an excellent work rate by tracking back every time, with vigour. He never gave up trying to win back possession, he even won a free kick thanks to his inspiring determination and drive in winning the ball back. He seemed to know that he was a physical mismatch for most players in this match and was never afraid of getting stuck into a physical battle. On the ball, he showed great skill and flair to beat opponents. He drove straight into space and at players, demonstrating bravery and no small amount of determination. Without the ball, he intelligently moves into space, provides width on the flank he’s on and runs in behind to catch long passes. Guajardo was cautioned and yellow-carded for a foul so he showed that sometimes his tenacity crosses the line. Guajardo seemed to me like a mature, tactically versatile and hard-working player. He showed the right mentality to make full use of his technical and physical gifts.
Guajardo impressed me in both matches and on both flanks. He scored and created problems for the Brazilian defence with his trickery and driving runs. He is brave on the ball and works hard without it. It’s fairly clear to see why he’s been linked with moves to Chile’s big three clubs. He would be an exceptional signing for any of them. I would love to see him play and test himself not only in the top flight of Chile but also in the Copa Libertadores. I’ll be keeping watching his progress very closely in the 2023 season since I think he could leave Chile for Europe for around 5M€ in around 2 years if he keeps playing and developing at this rate.