Going hand in hand with our team scouting reports for this summer’s World Cup, we will also be taking a look at some potential breakout stars in South Africa. Our first edition looks at Chile’s tenacious defender-come-midfielder Gary Medel.
Name: Gary Alexis Medel Soto
Date of Birth: 03/08/1987
Current Club: Boca Juniors (ARG)
At 22 years of age and standing at a meagre 5′ 7″, Gary Medel does not appear to be the most intimidating opponent at first glance. But look into this young man’s eyes and you will see a fiery determination and combative spirit cast in the same dye as the great Leonel Sánchez, often regarded as Chile’s most influential player.
Medel epitomizes the warrior-like attitude that saw Sánchez gather a record breaking 84 caps for his country, which is often over-shadowed (albeit justifiably) by his infamous left hook to Italy’s Mario David in the 1962 World Cup – now dubbed the Battle of Santiago – which resulted in the Italian defender being knocked unconscious.
Medel has that same steel to his fibre. It is a steel that saw him receive his marching order’s in the fiery cauldron that is El Superclásico – South American football’s fiercest rivalry between Boca and River Plate – just under two weeks ago. But examine the fixture closer, and you will see another trait Medel shares with Sánchez, and that is a unique eye for goal. The right back turned defensive midfielder grabbed both of Boca’s goals in the famous victory, the second of which oozed a compuser more akin to that of a striker in the mould of compatriots Marcelo Salas or Ivan Zamarona (see below).
This is not the first time a Medel brace has stolen the show in such a tempestuous affair. In July 2007 while playing for his first club Universidad Católica, Medel wrote himself into the club’s folklore by grabbing both goals in a 2-0 victory over eternal rivals Universidad de Chile. Not happy with two important braces in his career, the young Chilean also helped himself to both goals in Chile’s impressive 2-0 win over Bolivia away in La Paz – a venue that has claimed the scalp of Diego Maradona’s Argentina side following the host’s 6-1 mauling last year. Medel’s first goal in that game – a tremendous overhead kick – can be seen below.
His eye for goal has seen him plunder 7 goals in 25 appearances for Boca this season from a primarily right back role, although Chilean coach Marcelo Bielsa is prone to playing Medel as an anchor man in front of his defense, where he is equally as adept. It is a versatile role for Medel, as he often reverts to his more familiar right back position when his side surrender possession.
Medel is very much an in-your-face style midfielder not too dissimilar to fellow South American Javier Mascherano, and has elements to his game in his versatility and stamina much like Manchester United’s Owen Hargeaves or former France midfielder Claude Makelele. He displays above average passing skills to go with this, and his aerial abilities are very similar to Wayne Rooney in a way, as even at only 5′ 7″, he has mastered the timing and reach of his leaps to compete with even the tallest of forwards.
- Medel celebrates in trademark style, scaling the fence in front of the Chile fans
Perhaps the best comparison for Medel is AC Milan’s Gennaro Gattuso – so much so in fact that he has become known affectionately as “the Chilean Gattuso”. His other nickname, for the record, is the beautiful “Pitbull”. Chile manager Marcelo Bielsa realises just how key Medel is to his team. A manager with a reputation for putting his trust in youth, Biesla immediately called the tenacious midfielder up to his senior team having witnessed him play a vital role in Chile’s under 23 team finishing as runners-up to Italy in the 2008 Toulon Tournament. This came after Medel had played an ever present role in the under 20’s famous third place finish in the 2007 World Cup.
As Consolation Goal has done it’s best to persuade in our first edition of Scouting Report, Marcelo Bielsa’s side have the potential to cause upsets to fellow group H contender Spain and potential last-16 opponents Brazil. For Medel, such results would not be out of the ordinary, having already received a standing ovation upon his substitution in Chile’s 1-0 victory of Argentina last year.
While the majority of player’s jetting over to South Africa this summer would pray to avoid a confrontation with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Villa, you get the impression that Gary Medel is counting down the days until June 25th and the showdown in Pretoria.