Leonardo Balerdi was a full Argentina international at the age of 20 before even making his competitive first-team debut for Borussia Dortmund. bundesliga.com profiles the up-and-coming Argentine defender...
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Country: Argentina (2 caps)
Balerdi must be special, given that he had only turned out five times for Boca Juniors in Superliga Argentina before Dortmund made their move in January 2019. The 6'2" centre-back ensured Boca recorded clean sheets in his first two outings, and even scooped Man-of-the-Match honours on his home debut at the iconic Bombanera, where he won 10 of his 12 contested aerial challenges.
Since moving to Dortmund, Balerdi has turned out 12 times for the reserves in Germany's fourth tier, scoring once. The Villa Mercedes-born sentry featured in wins against Seattle Sounders and Liverpool during BVB's 2019 summer US tour, and was in the senior matchday squad on numerous occasions in 2019/20. A seven-time U20 Argentina international, he made his debut for the senior national team as a substitute in the 4-0 friendly win over Mexico in September 2019.
He made his Bundesliga bow on Matchday 14 as a late substitute in BVB's 5-0 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf, the first of seven top-flight appearances in 2019/20. Balerdi's only start to date was on Matchday 34, but he was taken off after 65 minutes of Dortmund's surprise 4-0 defeat at home to Hoffenheim.
Plays a bit like: Mats Hummels
A rangy and physical defender, Balerdi has a reputation for putting limbs and head on the line. The man himself cites Spain duo Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique as his chief role models, but given his forward-thinking build-up game it's very difficult to ignore comparisons with FIFA World Cup-winning Dortmund teammate, Mats Hummels. There have even been murmurings of 'the next Franz Beckenbauer'.
Did you know?
Until the age of 15, Balerdi operated as a holding midfielder. "Boca needed players in defence and since I’m tall, they tried me out there to see how I would respond," he told El Diario de la Republica of the tactical switch that changed the course of his career. "I did well. The truth is that I got used to it and I like it. I've also learned a lot as a defender."
What they're saying
"Leonardo is an intelligent centre-back and strong in defence. He also has a good build-up and passing game. We are very glad that he has chosen us and are convinced that he will help us with his talent in the future." - Dortmund sporting director, Michael Zorc
"Leonardo really caught my eye. I've never seen a player like him!" - director of the Argentina national teams, Cesar Luis Menotti