Alejandro Grimaldo: Who is Bayer Leverkusen's incoming Barcelona old boy?
Alejandro Grimaldo will join Bayer Leverkusen this summer, having previously been on the books of Valencia, Barcelona and Benfica. But just who is the left-sided Spaniard soon to be tearing up the Bundesliga?
Club: Bayer Leverkusen (as of 1 July 2023)
Country: Spain (2 U21 caps)
Born 20 September 1995 in Valencia, Grimaldo - also known as "Alex" - joined the youth academy of his hometown club at 11 but spent just two years there before Catalan giants Barcelona came calling for his services in 2011. Grimaldo was soon fast-tracked to Barca's B team and became the youngest player in history to play in Spain's second division when he featured against Cartagena on 4 September 2011, aged 15 years and 349 days old - a record that still stood until May 2023.
Despite making 92 appearances for the club's reserve team, Grimaldo didn't go on to represent Barcelona's famed senior side and ultimately moved to Portuguese heavyweights Benfica in 2016. He has since gone on to make more than 300 appearances for the club, including 40 outings in the UEFA Champions League proper and a further 13 in the competition's qualifying rounds. Grimaldo has scored 26 times for the Portuguese outfit in the process, while providing 65 assists from left-back. During his time in Lisbon, Grimaldo has become a three-time league champion and won both the Portugal Cup and Portugal League Cup, as well as three more Super Cups.
Despite making 21 youth international appearances, Grimaldo is yet to earn a senior cap for his country. He featured twice for the Spain U16s before moving up to the U17s (eight caps) and U19s (nine caps), winning the UEFA U19 European Championship with the latter in 2012. Grimaldo played every game of that tournament in a star-studded Spain side and went on to make his U21 debut for La Roja, aged 17, collecting two appearances at that level.
Plays a bit like: Raphaël Guerreiro
A full-back in its truest essence, Grimaldo effortlessly balances defensive duties with attacking ambition. He boasts a wand of a left-foot and is often looking to get to the opposition byline in order to deliver pinpoint crosses, but is equally adept at skipping inside to add more numbers in midfield. Whether overlapping or underlapping, Grimaldo's crossing and passing ability is second to none and he is a potent threat from set-pieces, especially free-kicks on the edge of the box.
Borussia Dortmund fans may well see more than just a passing resemblance to Raphaël Guerreiro, their left-footed Portugal international who has recently stepped into central midfield with eye-catching results. You could see Grimaldo eventually making the same switch to good effect, with his long-range passing capable of unlocking even the most miserly of defences.
Did you know?
Grimaldo's free-kick prowess comes from a great deal of hard work on the training ground, even if he does find it difficult to squeeze practice into an increasingly packed schedule.
"When you play every three days, it's difficult to train regularly, but I always try [to practice free-kicks] before games," he said previously. "It's something I've been practicing for many years – shoot, miss, shoot, miss – until, in the end, things got better. That work paid off and... I hope I can score more."
What they're saying
"Alejandro Grimaldo is a versatile, very skilful left-back with great technical experience. He is capable of scoring and has a lot of experience and quality." - Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes
"I’m attracted by the idea of showing my strengths in the Bundesliga... For me, it's one of the best leagues in Europe and is definitely unique in terms of the set-up and atmosphere at the stadiums. I’m very proud that a Bundesliga club like Bayer 04 has come in for me. I’m sure we will have a fantastic time together." – Grimaldo after signing for Die Werkself
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