Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund have splashed out in the January sales with the signing of up-and-coming defender Leonardo Balerdi.
bundesliga.com shares five things you might not know about the Argentine youngster…
1) He's relatively new to the game
Dortmund’s scouting team obviously liked what little they saw of Balerdi, who turns 20 on 26 January, considering the youngster has played precious little first-team football to date. He made his debut for Boca Juniors in August 2018 and had featured in only five league games for the Buenos Aires giants by the time he joined Dortmund.
"He's a signing for the future," said BVB sporting director Michael Zorc. "It was originally planned for the summer but has now been brought forward. Leonardo is an intelligent central defender, who's strong in the tackle and in the air. His build-up play and passing are also good. We're very happy to have signed him and we're confident he will be an asset for us going forward."
2) He didn't take long to impress
Balerdi had to wait another couple of months to make his home debut for Boca, but he showed no signs of nerves when he took to the field at the famous Bombonera stadium for the first time.
Just like in his first appearance against Huracan, the game against Rosario Central finished scoreless. This time, though, Balerdi took the man of the match honours. He made seven clearances – more than any other player – and also put in five tackles, made three interceptions, two blocks and won 10 of his 12 aerial duels.
"Thank you for this – it’s a dream come true," he said afterwards. "I felt very calm."
3) He used to be a midfielder
Balerdi started out as a defensive midfielder, but was switched to central defence at the age of 15 – shortly after he linked up with Boca.
"They needed players in that position and since I’m tall [6'1"], they tried me out there to see how I would respond," he told El Diario de la Republica in 2017.
"I did well. The truth is that I got used to it and I like it. I’ve also learned a lot in the last while."
4) He's being closely watched by Argentina
Balerdi has already represented Argentina at U20 level, and returned to Chile after completing a medical ahead of his move to Dortmund in order to compete at the South American U20 championship.
But the spirited stopper has already rubbed shoulders with some of the top players from his country, having been invited to train with the senior squad at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Hailing from Villa Mercedes in the province of San Luis, Balerdi reportedly made a very good impression while marking the likes of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.
5) He could become the fifth Argentine to play for Dortmund
Four other players from Argentina have played for Dortmund in the past, though none of them stayed for too long. Forward Patricio Margetic played three games in the 1988/89 season before moving on to Cleveland Crunch, while both midfielder Leonardo Rodriguez – in 1994 – and full-back Juan Fernandez – in the 2002/03 season – managed a combined 20 Bundesliga appearances between them.
Former Wolfsburg and Bochum forward Diego Klimowicz, meanwhile, scored six goals in 39 league appearances for BVB between 2007 and 2009. Lucas Barrios, who won the Bundesliga title with Dortmund in 2011 and 2012, was born and raised in Argentina, but represented Paraguay at international level.