After Erik Lamela left River Plate did not have to wait long for a new teenager to hype up. The new big talent of River Plate is the winger Lucas Ocampos, just 17 years old.
For Ocampos the stage was well set for him to make his big start, Lamela had left and River Plate was playing in the second division of Argentine football, therefore he had no big pressure on his shoulders when it came to performing on the pitch as there were others who should’ve already been more than good enough for the second division level.
However, while River Plate has put around 15 million euro price-tag on his head and European big teams are looking on with interest, the question must be asked: how good is he really? The Argentine first division itself already has very slow tempo football compared to European leagues where Ocampos might be heading, I can imagine the second division to be even slower so one must take his statistics with a pinch of salt.
Torneo de Verano was a good chance to see him in action against a first division club as River Plate met Racing last week. It migth’ve been the debut of David Trezeguet, but my attention was turned to Ocampos.
Note: Again, when reading, you have to take into account that this report is based on one game, and a friendly-esque (making up words here) game at that, so the picture it provides might and probably isn’t the whole truth.
One Game Report on Lucas Ocampos
Name: Lucas Ariel Ocampos
Date of Birth: 11.07.1994 (age 17)
Height: 187 cm
Current Club: River Plate (according to media reports contracted until 2014)
National Team: capped for U17 national team
Basic Playing Information:
Position: Left winger
Preferred Foot: Right
Basic Career Statistics (according to Wikipedia.org):
River Plate – 18 games, 4 goals, 5 assists
Argentina U17 – 8 games, 3 goals
Game Watched To Make The Report:
River Plate – Racing 2:0 (Torneo de Verano, 20.01.2012)
Lucas Ocampos played as the left-sided midfielder in a 4-3-1-2 formation. River Plate was the better side in this sort of half-serious, half-friendly game. For River Plate it was a great chance to prove themselves against top division team and the game was played out in a very serious manner.
They made loads of chances and were solid in defence, winning 2:0 in the end. Ocampos wasn’t involved in either of River’s goals. First one being a one on one chance scored and the other coming from Trezeguet after Ocampos had come off the pitch injured in the 61st minute.
Performance of Ocampos:
It was a more of friendly game and in a tournament that takes place after a bit of break for clubs so rusty and slack movements/touches were expected and accepted to some extent.
However, I would’ve thought in this environment a young, talented and quick attacking player would have a field day. It was not the case for Ocampos who looked to blow hot and cold.
Not lighting fast
When you think of a young attacking talent, the first thing you imagine is that he must be a quick and a good dribbler. To an extent this is true with Ocampos too, but when it comes to speed, he seemed to have less acceleration than some of the previous/current South American “wonderkids” like Alexandre Pato when he was 18 or even the former River player of Lamela.
He has good pace, but it’s not really enough at this moment to cause decent defenders many problems and it is not helped by the fact that he is not aggressive and experienced enough when challenging for the ball in shoulder to shoulder situations. He lost almost every duel he had when the ball was even slightly out of his control.
His tallness and promisingly strong-looking bodybuild make it possible that he could grow to have similar playing style to Cristiano Ronaldo, minus the step-overs and incredibly quick sprints.
He did manage to make good use of his tallness, winning a couple of headers he went for, even if he did simply put his head against the ball rather than directing the ball towards a preferred area of the pitch.
Biggest faults in his games were caused by laziness and inexperience. Where he really showed his age was in the tactical department. The amount of times his tactical discipline and understanding of the game frustrated me was big.
It was his movement in the attacking phase that I did not like. He showed little to no eagerness to get on the ball, to offer his team-mates an option to pass the ball to. He often dragged his wing inside when the ball was barely over the half-way line on the other flank, therefore significantly narrowing the space his team could play in. He couldn’t even make such a basic thing as coming deep to collect a pass from full-back, instead expecting the later to pull a miracle and pass the ball over a defender between Ocampos and the ball.
He struggled to respond to opponent movement in both defensive and attacking phase and as the game went on, he became less and less active.
To add bit of praise into this criticism, he does try to keep his eyes open for opponents moving. At least this is what I noticed at the start of the game when he checked his opponents constantly when defending, making sure he wouldn’t miss anything. And to be fair to him, his defensive contribution was reasonable for a winger, making lot of challenges and winning the ball on few occasions.
On another positive note, I did like when he did cut inside on one occasion during a more counter-attacking situation where a ball came into the box from opposite flank and found Ocampos free about 10 yards from goal. Sadly his right foot finish was quite average and went straight at the goalkeeper.
Going too far when exhibiting his skills
He showed to have good technical skills, but on more than one occasion he went overboard with it. He lost the ball many times by trying a trick too many, often failing completely.
He even tried to flick the ball up high in the middle of the pitch which is great when he can pull it off, but in a tight situation with lot of players involved, getting the ball back is more down to luck than skill in the end. He did somehow get the ball back, but he made the simpler thing a lot harder in my opinion.
His first touch, especially killing the ball in air, was very good, but that is all bit useless when you cannot offer an end product – be it a pass which creates a lot of space or a successful shot. In his case, the decisiveness and real vision is not there yet.
What level is he now:
I think a 15 million euro price-tag on him seems like a stretch too far but it is understandable on River Plate’s part to hype him up a bit and ask a big price in today’s market where every big club is more desperate than ever to spend big bucks on young players, all in hope of finding the new Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo before someone else does.
He should look to stay in Argentina for longer and clubs interested should also wait to see how he does in the Primera should River get back up. And if River don’t get back up, they might be forced to give him away for a cheaper, more reasonable and risk-worthy price.
For now he looked like a decent player for the level he was playing in. Far from the star of the show which he should be in a league like Argentina to warrant the price-tag he has.
What level might he reach:
I do not see a world-beater in him as he looked lazy on that pitch. He might develop enough physically to become difficult opponent for the Argentine defenders, but to make big things in Europe, he’d need to improve a lot more in that physical department, something that is not very easily attainable.
If I was his manager, I would actually try to convert him into a central midfielder because he showed good tackling skills. He has potential to be a very strong player who can break, dictate and create. But now when he has already gotten his big price-tag as a winger, this is not going to happen.
It is actually really hard to predict if he would become an expensive mistake for which-ever big team would buy him or a good Argentina starting eleven player. But the thing I’m more convinced of is that he won’t be the one fighting out for best player awards and raw talents like him could be found for better price.
If I had to pay 10 million euros: N/A
I definitely wouldn’t pay 10 million euros for him now, maybe 5 million would be a reasonable price-tag for him.
Talent rating: 7/10 (I’d say 8/10 if there was a bigger chance of him being converted into a central or even attacking midfielder in young age)