The accelerated reconversion of Pablo Barrios | Soccer | Sports


Pablo Barrios (Madrid, 20 years old) is the Atlético de Madrid footballer who has had the most conversations with Diego Pablo Simeone in recent months. Many of those talks were focused on marking the appropriate times in his process as a first team player. All those precautions have ended up being blown up. The club’s financial impossibility of hiring a midfielder who would give Koke oxygen and his injury six minutes into the first league game have accelerated the baking of Barrios’ mold as a midfielder.

The coach wanted him to first settle in professional football as an interior or even as a midfielder, but circumstances have handed him the handle of the team sooner than expected. Simeone intended for the boy from Moratalaz a slower transition towards the pivot position. During the last year, Cholo already warned him that in the future he saw him in that area. He prepared him in individual sessions for that delicate position, but the Argentine coach never thought that Barrios could appear this Tuesday in Rome, in the team’s debut in the Champions League against Lazio (9:00 p.m. Movistar LC), as his most reliable midfielder to occupy. the heart of the game.

The previous season, after making his debut and giving him a couple of games as a starter, Barrios took a backseat. He had the logical collapse of the youth player who has felt important and the bench brings him back to the harsh reality of beginners. Simeone detected the boy’s low mood in training. He perceived him to be weak and somewhat discouraged, but he reassured him: “This is a long-distance race and you are just starting,” the technician told him.

The aforementioned injury to Koke, that of De Paul, Simeone’s own conviction that Witsel is now more central than midfielder and that he never saw Marcos Llorente there – although he was signed for that position – have given Barrios the command of the team. team at the beginning of the course. Tonight it remains to be seen if Simeone keeps his bet. In principle, he even appreciates Barrios as having fresher legs than the rest of the squad. The statistics also support the youth squad. He is the Atlético player who recovers the ball the most times (11) and registers an 83% success rate in passing. Only Mario Hermoso (276) has touched the ball more than Barrios (246). He is also the player of the red and white team who has executed the most ball drives (58). The latter is not always to Simeone’s liking, who perceives it as a risk in certain situations.

Santi Denia, under-21 coach, who also placed him as a midfielder last week in Malta (0-6) and in Jaén, against Scotland (1-0), defines him like this: “He is a boy who has grown up as a midfielder goalkeeper and who has that impulse to go out in drives to reach the opposite area and shoot or assist. I don’t like to stop players because you take away their natural characteristics. What he has to do is learn to choose when to let go.” With the U-21, as a midfielder, his performance was good. “He has to be more positional, but he has the hierarchy to play there. When games go wrong, he asks for the ball and his teammates know they can give it to him,” adds Santi Denia.

These are the kind of games for which Simeone demanded that the club hire an established midfielder like the Italian Marco Verratti or the Danish Pierre Hojberg. Neither of them fit the financial conditions that Atlético had. The obsession was a footballer who could support the team in contests like this Tuesday’s, with a lot at stake. Therefore, if he finally opts for Barrios, it will be an opportunity to measure his abilities.

The duel comes to Atlético between the tough defeat on Saturday in Valencia (3-0) and the derby against Real Madrid on Sunday at the Metropolitano. The pressure is maximum for Simeone and his footballers. If they do not come out well in these two upcoming matches, they will be facing the first crisis of the season. The failure in the previous edition of the Champions League – the red and whites were last in a group that included Milan, Bruges and Porto – is still very present in the minds of the coaching staff and the players. The reputational blow was as hard as the economic one.

The aforementioned losses of Koke and De Paúl, plus those of Lemar, Söyüncü, Reinildo and Memphis have meant that Simeone has had to put together a list with 15 players from the first team and half a dozen from the reserve team. Under this landscape of precariousness, Barrios’ figure becomes even more important if the coach keeps him in the eleven.

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