Towards the end of last season, when the transfer rumors started to spiral, one really caught my eye. This being a certain Manuel Ugarte to Paris Saint-Germain.
Being a PSG fan, I instantly started to look at different stats and highlights of Ugarte. He was drawing comparisons to Casemiro, which is extremely high praise for a 22-year-old. However, after watching him fit right into Luis Enrique's starting eleven, the comparison is spot on.
When I was thinking about how he compares to previous PSG midfielders, I noticed how much he plays like some of the legends that have graced the club. Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, and Marco Verratti were the three that immediately came to mind.
For someone who is still so young, he is very mature on the ball as well as off the ball. He does not have much of a temper and has only accumulated a single yellow card. If he stays fit throughout the season and finds his voice, there is no doubt that he will emerge as a locker-room leader, as well as the crucial leader of a very young PSG midfield.
At the time of the transfer, PSG was still without a manager and it was worrying that Luis Campos was signing players without a clear system to cater toward. Nonetheless, he proved to be somewhat of a visionary, as Ugarte was the perfect player for their system. Luis Enrique tends to run a 4-3-3 with an emphasis on possession and attacking play, with Ugarte playing the CDM role. When playing with a very high-positioned back line, having someone who can sit in front of said line and stop counterattacks is crucial.
Ugarte is an absolute machine, he reminds me of a prime N'golo Kante or Sofyan Amrabat as he simply does not stop running. If you need someone to perform a last-second tackle, or simply clog up the middle to stop opposition, he's your guy.
Statistics-wise, Ugarte ranks in the 99th percentile for tackles per 90 minutes (4.88) and he wins 7.81 ground duels per 90, which is a top-notch production.
However, he is not just someone who defends. Ugarte has a 91% pass completion rate as well as an xA (expected assists) of 1.45. Dribbling-wise he completes 54.55% of his dribbles, which is pretty good for someone who is expected to control both sides of the game.
All in all, the season has only just begun but if Ugarte stays on this path, he has the potential to become a PSG legend. He is already a fan-favorite, and seems to love every minute representing the badge on the pitch.
Ugarte has all the potential in the world, and for the €50m fee paid by PSG, there is no doubt he is starting to show everyone that he is worth so much more than that.