When Atlético Madrid beat Eibar 3-1 this past Saturday, they did so with the average age in the starting XI being roughly 23 years-old.
Although Fernando Torres’ 100th career goal stole the headlines on the day, the game solidified the fact that José Giménez and Saúl Ñíguez are showing fans of los Rojiblancos that the future’s looking bright.
We at AtléticoFans.com ranked both the Uruguayan and the Spaniard with a score of seven for their winning performance and for stepping up with Diego Godín, Filipe Luís, and Juanfran all suspended.
Pundits and fans pointed to the suspensions of key players as a cause for alarm, predicting that if Eibar could pull an upset, it would be now. It sure looked like that was in the cards after Saul made a mistake that resulted in Eibar’s Keko Gontán to score the first goal of the day.
However, after that, Giménez would score a header and Saúl, the midfielder turned center-back to make up for the absences, also used his noggin to put Atleti up 2-1. His ability to bounce-back from a mistake that reduces your confidence shows the quality and mental strength the 21 year old has.
The former Atlético Madrid B player has been used more regularly in La Liga this season, being capped 17 times, and with 15 games left in the Primera, he can certainly surpass his 24 games played last season. He is currently ranked second among all the more regularly used midfielders per Squawka.com:
Squawka ranks everyone based on their ‘Performance Score,’ combining their attack, defense and possession actions on the field into an algorithm. In addition to Saul’s Performance Score rank, he’s first in his Defensive Actions with a rank of 168.
It is that aspect of his game that Diego Simeone loves, but perhaps the only thing stopping him from being a regular as opposed to a semi-regular starter is his poor -60 possession rating. Look for the Spaniard to try to improve his passing and through balls as he continues to progress in the engine room.
Nonetheless, the midfielder has made his mark on the scoresheet this season with six goals and two helpers across all competitions, surpassing his totals last year, and in the process getting endorsed by Spanish expert Guillem Balague to progress to even greater heights:
He will be in a couple of years one of the top midfielders in Europe https://t.co/RaeACwnfvc
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) January 12, 2016
Saúl aside, his partner for the Eibar match has also elevated his play this campaign. Giménez shared center-back duties with Miranda last season, which could be why the Brazilian headed to Inter Milan this past summer, and truly trumped his teammate’s total score:
Moving onto the current campaign, both Uruguayans have obviously topped the defense corps, but the 21 year old center-back has eight more blocked shots than his compatriot:
Both players surely feed off one another, as the pairing are arguably the best in Europe today. However, Simeone isn’t the only one who is developing the player, as Godín also offers his leadership and tactical IQ to help his younger peer, and with the older of the two looking to be at the Vicente Calderón for life, Giménez will continue to learn from him for seasons to come.
As February rolls on and the ending stretch of the season comes up, los Rojiblancos will need both Saúl and Giménez to continue their stellar form. The youngsters could become staples for the Madrid side for years to come, and adding silverware to their young careers will surely have the badge grow on their hearts even more.
How impressed have you been with Saúl and Giménez this season? Could they be future captain material?