Rodrigo de Paul: Things to Know About the Argentine Midfielder

Rodrigo De Paul
Rodrigo de Paul has garnered the attention of several top European clubs during his time with Udinese and looks set to join Leeds United | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Leeds United announced their return to Premier League football in emphatic fashion.

An interminable 16-year wait was brought to a close when Marcelo Bielsa’s side went blow for blow at the home of the defending Premier League champions, denied a point thanks to a careless 88th-minute penalty.

The Yorkshire outfit could further bolster their exciting, attack-minded side with the addition of Udinese midfielder Rodrigo de Paul.

The 27-year-old Argentina international has spent the past four seasons floating between mid-table and relegation as Udinese’s attacking lynchpin. His name is never far from the lips of those within the limits of Friuli, but De Paul may be something of an unknown further afield.

De Paul endured an early setback on his debut for Valencia | BIEL ALINO/Getty Images

Leeds have already splashed a healthy wad of cash on the purchase of one Rodrigo this summer – the £27m arrival of Spanish striker Rodrigo Moreno – who didn’t get off to the ideal start. After coming on as a second half substitute, Moreno lazily dangled out a leg which Fabinho gratefully fell over, conceding the spot kick which allowed Mohamed Salah to complete his hat-trick and give Liverpool all three points.

As debuts go, that isn’t great but De Paul may just pip his namesake thanks to the consistency of his slow starts at each of his three professional clubs.

In his first league outings for Argentinian club Racing and Serie A‘s Udinese, De Paul’s side were dealt a mauling, losing 3-0 and 4-0 respectively. Yet, those defeats pale in comparison to his disastrous debut for Valencia. De Paul’s first match lasted just 63 seconds as he was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Sevilla’s Aleix Vidal following his second-half substitution.

De Paul has scored 17 Serie A goals from open play for Udinese, more than half have come from outside the boxDe Paul has scored 17 Serie A goals from open play for Udinese, more than half have come from outside the box
De Paul has scored 17 Serie A goals from open play for Udinese, more than half have come from outside the box | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

At the age of 18, De Paul had already stumbled upon his party trick. In just his second start for Racing (which was considerably better than his first appearance), De Paul cut inside, onto his right foot, and ripped a fizzing effort past the outstretched arms of San Martín de San Juan’s helpless goalkeeper.

Perhaps this successful effort cemented the idea in De Paul’s head that he has the ability (and right) to take aim from anywhere he sees fit.

Nevertheless, this hair-trigger shooting style has seen him lash in nine league goals from outside the box for Udinese even though the expected goal return for these long-distance efforts is around five. Essentially this means that De Paul has blasted in four more goals than the average player based on his opportunities outside the area.

Rodrigo De PaulRodrigo De Paul
Only one of De Paul’s 24 league goals in La Liga and Serie A have been scored with his left foot | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

As we’ve established, De Paul doesn’t shy away from even the slimmest opportunity to pull the trigger. However, these efforts invariably come from his favoured right boot – of the shots De Paul has taken in the past six years of league football in Europe (which exceed 300) only 12 have been struck with his left boot according to UnderStat.

Similarly, StatsBomb’s pass footedness metric shows that De Paul finds a teammate using his stronger right foot 96% of the time. Only eight outfield players in Europe’s top five leagues recorded a higher ratio last season.

Rodrigo De PaulRodrigo De Paul
De Paul doesn’t contest many aerial balls but he’s largely been unsuccessful when he has | Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Standing between 5’10 and 5’11, De Paul – who began his career on the flanks but was almost exclusively deployed as one of three central midfielders in a 3-5-2 last season – is hardly the smallest player in his position.

However, while he has many other strengths – set pieces, chance creation, long-range shooting (obviously) – De Paul’s prowess off the ground is emphatically lacking. The Argentine won just two aerial duels in the entirety of last season at a woeful success rate of 15%.

Rodrigo De Paul, Fabian VargasRodrigo De Paul, Fabian Vargas
Rodrigo de Paul joined Racing as an eight-year-old after tagging along with a friend who wanted to join | Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images

During his days as a Racing playing, De Paul would spend much of his free time visiting his former youth side Deportivo Belgrano, imparting some of his experience on players between the ages of 12 and 16 when he was still a teenager himself.

De Paul told Argentinian publication El Gráfico: “I go often, I like to share with the boys and be able to teach them something.”

Leeds have the youngest squad in the Premier League with an average age of 24.7. As well as a tangible on field impact, the 27-year-old De Paul may be able to help some of the younger members of the squad off it.

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