Why ‘Uruguayan Paul Pogba’ Rodrigo Bentancur is the most important player to watch at the U-20 World Cup
The Uruguayan Pogba? It’s a lofty comparison for Rodrigo Bentancur, but he’s one of world soccer’s most highly-touted up-and-coming young stars and it’s a tag he’s been slapped with for a while.
Now, the world will finally get a look at the 19-year-old midfielder, thanks to the U-20 World Cup. There, he’s expected to lead a promising Uruguay team deep into the tournament, but that’s just a taste of what’s to come for Bentancur. There’s already talk that the Boca Juniors man could play a role for his country as soon as next summer at the 2018 World Cup.
Bentancur was one of the key players in the Uruguay team that won the South American U-20 Championship in February, sealing their passage to the upcoming U-20 World Cup. Although he still hasn’t earned a call-up to Uruguay’s full national team, with his performances over the last couple years and his steadily growing profile, it seems inevitable that he’ll be drafted into the full team soon rather than later.
Since 2015, Bentancur has made 50 appearances for Boca Juniors. He’s been a regular starter for the legendary Buenos Aires side since 2015, and by all accounts, he’s ready for the jump. And that jump will be to Juventus as much as it will Uruguay’s senior team.
When Juventus sold Carlos Tevez back home to Boca Juniors in 2015, they secured right of first refusal for a number of players in the Boca youth ranks. Bentancur was one of the most promising names on that list, and this summer, he’ll be packing up and leaving Argentina to join up with the Bianconeri.
Allegedly coveted by Real Madrid and (of course) Arsenal before agreeing terms with the Old Lady, Bentancur will join Juventus for €9.5 million after the season’s end. He’s got more than a little bit of work ahead of him to break into Juve’s midfield, but a strong U-20 World Cup campaign could lay the groundwork for him to start off strong in Turin.
A rangy, technically strong midfielder capable of covering huge swathes of ground, it’s easy to see why, at the most basic level, the future Juventus midfielder has drawn comparisons to Pogba. Even his manager hasn’t shied away from the comparison, with Boca legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto coming out directly to hold the two up side-by-side:
“Bentancur is like a Uruguayan Pogba,” Barros Schelotto told Tuttosport.
“He is a young guy, but he is very talented. He is a midfielder with excellent technique, good runs and someone who is very intelligent. He is physically strong and good in the air. His characteristics are very much like those of Pogba.”
Similarly to Pogba, one of Bentancur’s greatest strengths is his versatility, and his varied skillset means he’s able to be deployed in a number of different roles in midfield. That’s a boon at the highest level, and it means there’s more than a small chance he’ll be able to nose his way into Juventus’ first team plans this coming season, and a legitimate shout that he’ll be part of Uruguay’s World Cup plans next summer.
This summer though, Bentancur will be right in the heart of the Uruguay U-20 side’s midfield. He’s their conductor in midfield, and if they’re going to be successful against the likes of France, Argentina, Germany, and the other heavy hitters in South Korea, they’ll need him to be at his most influential. If he continues to prove himself at this level internationally, we probably won’t be seeing him playing at the kiddie table much longer.