Last summer Rodrigo de Paul appeared set to join Leeds, before Udinese’s high asking price scuppered the move. Now, six months on, the 26-year-old is back in the news – this time linked with defending Premier League champions Liverpool.
The Argentina international has spent the past four and a half 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.
Here’s what you need to know about him.
Move over Jonathan Woodgate, De Paul may hold the record for the worst run of debuts in his career so far.
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.
Don’t expect him to hit the ground running if he moves to the Premier League.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
*stats correct as of the start of the 2020/21 season