Exequiel Palacios will join Bayer Leverkusen on a five-year deal from River Plate in January 2020. - © David Fernandez/imago/Agencia EFE
Exequiel Palacios will join Bayer Leverkusen on a five-year deal from River Plate in January 2020. - © David Fernandez/imago/Agencia EFE

Exequiel Palacios: Who is Bayer Leverkusen’s new Argentina midfielder?

Arturo Vidal, Ze Roberto, Charles Aranguiz… Bayer Leverkusen have previous when it comes to introducing talented South American midfielders to Europe and in signing Exequiel Palacios from Argentinian side River Plate, they look to have another gem on their hands.

Allow bundesliga.com to introduce you to the latest member of Die Werkself

Exequiel Palacios

Age: 21
Bayer Leverkusen
Central midfield
Argentina (4 senior caps)

Key stats

Born and raised in the Tucuman province in northern Argentina, Palacios was a gifted youngster and came up through the youth ranks at River Plate, based in the country’s capital Buenos Aires 745 miles to the east of his hometown. He was given his first cap for Argentina’s U17 side in March 2015 and in November later that year, just a month after turning 17, he made his debut in the River Plate first team, albeit in a 2-0 defeat to Newell’s Old Boys. A handful of top-flight appearances followed over the next couple of years, but it wasn’t until 2018/19 that he truly established himself in Los Millonarios’ side, making 36 appearances and chipping in with four goals and seven assists.

That kind of form did not go unnoticed by the national team and in August 2018 he received his first call-up to the senior Albiceleste side by Lionel Scaloni, even getting an assist on his debut in a 3-0 friendly win over Guatemala. A broken leg and a muscle injury kept him out of action for several weeks in 2019 and have prevented him from adding too many more caps to that initial taste of international football, but he remains a part of Scaloni’s plans and started the 4-0 friendly triumph over Mexico in September 2019, registering another assist.

Palacios has continued to underline his quality in 2019/20, playing every league game for River Plate prior to his transfer to Leverkusen. A serial winner, Palacios won the Copa Argentina three times, as well as the 2018 Copa Libetadores and in total he chalked up 10 goals and 11 assists in 77 competitive outings for River Plate.

Plays a bit like: Charles Aranguiz

Although Palacios has primarily played as a central midfielder, he is also able to operate in a more defensive role as a number six, or further forward just behind the strikers. Like Leverkusen teammate Aranguiz, he is not the tallest or bulkiest of players, but he more than makes up for it with his determination and combative nature. And, like Aranguiz, he has a great sense of timing for making late runs into the opposition area to score.

Palacios arelady has four senior caps for Argentina, most recently against Chile in September 2019. - FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Did you know?

There will be a familiar face for Palacios in the Leverkusen changing room in the shape of compatriot Lucas Alario. The duo overlapped for two years at River Plate before Alario’s switch to the BayArena in 2017, making eight appearances together, and they also shared a pitch in Argentina’s 0-0 draw with Chile - against Aranguiz - in September 2019.

What they’re saying

“Exequiel Palacios is a technically gifted midfielder with an eye for goal and the ability to play in his teammates. He’s very well suited to our team and our playing style.” – Leverkusen managing director for sport, Rudi Völler

“We’ve watched Exequiel Palacios for a long time and he’s really impressed us. Despite his young age he’s already achieved a great deal and in addition to his footballing qualities, he’s got a terrific mentality.” - Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes

“I’m very happy to play for Bayer Leverkusen, a club that has become a home to many South American players. I’m proud to be part of this ambitious club and I’m really looking forward to playing in the Bundesliga and in Europe.” - Exequiel Palacios