In a season where Lautaro Martinez has truly established himself as one of World football’s elite attackers, it comes as little surprise many clubs are interested in acquiring his services.
Bagging 16 goals in all competitions for Inter Milan, the Argentine star’s been an integral component towards the Nerazzurri’s title charge this term. Adapting brilliantly to Antonio Conte’s methods and forming a formidable partnership with Romelu Lukaku, watching him has been a joy.
With just about all of European football’s heavyweights reportedly interested, including Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona, it appears the latter are leading the way. With the legendary Lionel Messi stating his desire for Martinez to join him at Barca and recently heaping praise on him, it’s clear he’d be welcomed there.
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“He is spectacular, he has impressive qualities, you could always see that he would have become a great player, now he has exploded and he is showing it,” Messi gleamed. “I wish he could come and play here and fight to win everything, including the Champions League.”
“Lautaro is very similar to Suarez, both of them move very well and score goals. Lautaro had a great Copa America and he has proven to be reliable. Suarez has a lot of experience and can help Lautaro adapt to the club and to La Liga.”
While linking up with his countryman would be incredible, Martinez has been adamant he plans on remaining at Inter for now. Whatever happens regarding his future will be fascinating, but one thing’s for sure, and that’s what a talented forward he is.
To start with his movement, and this forms a super foundation from which to undertake his work from. Choosing his moments wisely when to drop deep, exploit the gaps in the channels when an opposing fullback steps out, when openings in behind centrally or unoccupied zones within the box arise, he pounces with conviction.
A master at identifying free zones and timing his runs, how he exploits the blindside of markers, gaps between defenders and when opponents are caught ball watching or out of position has been vital towards his success too.
Moreover, the way he dovetails so smoothly with Lukaku has given Inter another layer of menace, for they’re always on the same page and share a wonderful understanding. When one drops deep, the other will usually rush in behind to stretch the defence, thus posing questions for defenders on who to mark or where to position themselves.
Knowing how exceptional Lukaku is at winning aerial duels, Martinez will frequently time his runs in preparation for a flick on from his strike partner, with this tactic bearing fruit on many occasions. It’s also been great to see them position themselves nearby to combine intricately and manipulate defensive blocks by drawing and pinning adversaries so fullbacks and runners from midfield can target newly freed up spaces.
Lastly, they way they crossover their runs to place huge doubt in defenders’ minds has been another valuable weapon to lose markers and unbalance opposing rearguards.
To focus on his movement inside the box, and he excels here, for he uses a nice array of dismarking maneuvers to gain separation to put his outstanding finishing skills to good use. Whether it be slick zig zags, double movements or knowing when to hold his run as the defence collapses deeper or attack the box aggressively, he instinctively gets into promising goal-scoring locations. The fact he enjoys 6.06 touches inside the box per game illustrates his prowess here.
Technically proficient and very good with the ball at his feet, Martinez is a skillful dribbler who uses his strength and low centre of gravity to keep his balance while beating markers or protecting possession. Sharp with his first touch and ball control, once inheriting the ball, he’s shown how well he can operate in tight spaces under pressure, with his composure and execution seeing him find a way out more often than not. Boasting an explosive turn of speed and change of direction, this, in combination with his neat repertoire of feints, shimmies and crafty touches, ensures he can beat his man or maintain possession while waiting for a viable outlet.
Meanwhile, in terms of his passing, there’s been much to admire about how he links play and animates offensive moves. Reading the play coherently and aware of where his teammates are situated, this means he can find them with incisive one touch passing and flicks and with splitting through balls in behind. A player who has that unique capacity to both score and create, the man who’s notched four assists and generates 0.77 shot assists per game is a real force to be reckoned with.
Martinez duly amplifies his threat with his underrated heading skills, for he picks up the ball’s flight rapidly, adjusts his runs accordingly and uses his powerful leap to be a useful option for crosses and set pieces.
By the numbers, his 4.06 shots pg, 2.21 dribbles pg, 1.33 progressive runs pg and 2.72 fouls suffered pg only adds to his worth for the title chasing Inter.
Improving all the time and showing how comfortably he handles any step up in class, which is illustrated by his five Champions League goals and how he’s already registered nine goals for Argentina, the world is his oyster.
Only time will tell how good he’ll be, but all the signs are heading towards the 22-year-old becoming one of the few true stars of the game for both club and country sooner rather than later.