Why does Angelino deserve his new four-and-a-half year deal at RB Leipzig? We could make a case for writing the shortest article ever simply by answering ‘erm, have you seen him play?’
There is more to it than that, of course, even if he has earned it through his consistently high-class performances - the latest of which came in Leipzig's 2-1 win over Augsburg on Matchday 21.
The Spaniard originally arrived at the Red Bull Arena on a six-month loan from Manchester City in January 2020. While most players usually need some time to settle in, learn the language, get to know the culture and demands of a new coach, Angelino hit the ground running.
Perhaps he was helped by prior experience, having laced his boots in Spain, England, the Netherlands and the USA on a variety of loans before moving to Leipzig. Yet whatever the reason, his impact was spectacular.
Angelino featured in 18 of Leipzig’s 20 competitive fixtures in the second half of 2019/20, playing the full 90 minutes on 16 occasions and chipping in with five assists and one goal. Not bad at all for a left-back.
“Angel didn’t need much time to adapt with us and settled into our style of play right from the outset,” said sporting director Markus Krösche last year. “He was very impressive in the second half of the campaign and contributed to us achieving our aims, including in the Champions League. He’s really had an impact here.”
Watch: Highlights of Leipzig's Matchday 21 win over Augsburg
So much so that Leipzig sought to extend his loan for another season. And yet despite competition from Barcelona, where Angelino’s partner lives with their son, the 24-year-old opted to continue at Leipzig.
“To be honest, I’m here because of Julian Nagelsmann, I signed on again because of him,” he told Marca. “I’m very happy playing under him and the way he likes to play. Everything he does, his tactics, they’re perfect for me.”
Indeed, Angelino felt so at home in the city and at the club that he bought a house there last year – a highly unusual move for a player on loan – months before Leipzig exercised their option to make his transfer a permanent one.
All of which brings us to the present, with Angelino continuing to impress for Leipzig into 2021 and penning a deal through to June 2025. His four league goals this term make him not only the club’s joint-top scorer alongside striker Yussuf Poulsen, but also the highest-scoring defender in the league.
Watch: Analysis of Leipzig's high-flying wing-back
Throw in another four league assists, plus three goals in the UEFA Champions League and another in the DFB Cup, and it is clear why Die Roten Bullen were so keen to tie him down, vital as he is in Leipzig’s bid for silverware in all three competitions.
“Angel is an extremely good player who’s very important for our game,” said Nagelsmann after the deal was made official.
“He’s played a leading role with us from the word go, and although he’s already developed extremely well and quickly, he can still do so much more. He constantly wants to push his limits in terms of making progress, and that’s incredibly impressive.”
It is rare for Nagelsmann to single out any one player for praise, but his team selections are confirmation of the high regard in which Angelino is held. The Leipzig head coach is known for rotating his side to keep his players fresh and opponents guessing – but not when it comes to Angelino.
The left-footer has played more Bundesliga minutes this season (1,787) than any other outfield player at the club, while he’s started 29 of the team’s 30 competitive games so far.
Ostensibly a left-back, his attack-minded approach to playing football means he usually operates as a left wing-back or left midfielder for Leipzig, providing width down the flank.
“Nagelsmann lets me be very creative,” Angelino told Süddeutsche Zeitung. “He doesn’t limit me at all, but puts his trust in me and gives me the freedom to make decisions myself.”
It was telling that when Leipzig announced the player’s new contract on Friday, they did so by highlighting his attacking stats: “47 competitive games, nine goals, 16 assists,” they tweeted.
As true as that may be, Angelino is far from being a luxury player who only wants to do the glamorous things. Although not the quickest player in the game – his top speed of 20.70 miles per hour (33.32 km/h) is just the 90th fastest recorded in the Bundesliga in 2020/21 - he is seventh league-wide in terms of sprints (542) and 10th for overall distance covered (136 miles)
“Angelino always wants to play and always has really high energy levels,” Nagelsmann said. No kidding, Julian.
That translates into Angelino grafting in defence too, and his 183 tackles won go some way to explaining why Leipzig, flying high in second place, have the best defensive record of any Bundesliga club this season, with just 18 conceded.
He is, then, an all-round top-quality, consistent performer, able to contribute at both ends of the pitch. Perhaps instead of asking why Leipzig signed him, the more pertinent question would be why on earth wouldn’t they?