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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Player Profile: Feyenoord forward Santiago Gimenez

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There’s nothing that turns the head of football recruiters quite like goals and the form of Santiago Gimenez at Feyenoord has got scouts scrambling for a front-row seat.

Gimenez has overcome a slow start in the Eredivisie to emerge as one of the division’s most in-demand names, with a number of Premier League clubs among those understood to be keeping a close eye on his development. Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea have all been linked of late.

But how has Gimenez gone from the fringes at Feyenoord to a much coveted centre-forward, all in such a short space of time?

Gimenez began his career in the colours of Cruz Azul, the fourth most successful club in Mexican football in terms of titles won and the side where his father, ex-Mexico international Christian Gimenez, played during his own professional career. Like his father, Gimenez was born in Argentina but has chosen to represent Mexico having made the move to Central America aged three.

Gimenez made his debut for Cruz Azul at 16, but it took another two seasons before he earned a regular chance in the side. He scored 20 goals in 88 Liga MX games, a modest return but one enough to tempt Feyenoord in for his services. The Dutch side spent €6million (£5.2m) to bring the forward to the Eredivisie.

Feyenoord took a patient approach with the new arrival and Gimenez, admittedly, started slowly in the Netherlands. He scored his first goal against FC Emmen in August, but started just four league games before the World Cup break. That lack of involvement saw him overlooked for Qatar, as Gerardo Martino left Gimenez out of his squad for the tournament.

The break, however, allowed Gimenez to get up to speed with European football. Despite his height and sizeable frame, the Mexican lacked strength in duels and the endurance to work from the front.

Upon the season’s return he was a new beast, scoring 13 league goals from the turn of the new year. That return included a run of eight consecutive Eredivisie games with a goal, as Arne Slot’s side won the Dutch title.

That title-winning campaign secured Champions League football for Feyenoord and Gimenez has the chance to test himself on club football’s biggest stage, with Lazio, Atletico Madrid and Celtic the opponents in Group E.

He has picked up where he left off last season – and then some.

The Feyenoord forward has fired 10 goals in just seven league appearances in 2023/24 to date, including a hat-trick against Ajax scored over two different days, after the first De Klassieker meeting had been suspended due to crowd trouble.

Gimenez is the first Feyenoord player to score a hat-trick against Ajax in Amsterdam and is averaging an Eredivisie goal every 55 minutes this season.

For context, Erling Haaland (77), Harry Kane (66), Lautaro Martinez (61), and Kylian Mbappe (62) are scoring less frequently. Only VfB Stuttgart’s Serhou Guirassy, in a stunning start to the Bundesliga campaign, can better Gimenez’s record across Europe’s top five leagues.

The underlying data points toward marked improvement in several areas. Gimenez is firing 4.6 shots on goal per 90 minutes, a steep increase from the 2.7 mustered last season. Equally, his numbers for aerials won, fouls drawn, dribbles and key passes are also up, with the latter particularly pertinent given a demand from Slot for Gimenez to become more involved in the game.

The 22-year-old arrived in Rotterdam as a penalty-box poacher and while much of his best work remains within close proximity to the opposition box, Gimenez is showing an improved ability to link with teammates in deeper areas and, most crucially, lead the press from the front.

Erling Haaland is the elite name when it comes to out-and-out centre-forwards and while caution (and context) must be taken in comparisons to the world’s best, the numbers indicate just how effective Gimenez has been across the last 12 months.

He has averaged 4.32 shots per game, 2.58 shot-creating actions, a 71.2% pass completion, and a huge 8.34 touches in the opposition box per game. On each of those metrics, admittedly in a lesser league, Gimenez has outperformed Haaland.

Six players have scored 20+ league goals in Europe’s top seven divisions in 2023:⁠

◉ Harry Kane⁠
◉ Lautaro Martínez⁠
◉ Kylian Mbappé⁠
◉ Santiago Giménez⁠
◉ Erling Haaland⁠
◉ Victor Osimhen⁠

Super Strikers. 🦸‍♂️ pic.twitter.com/lEX4O9tW1E

— Squawka (@Squawka) October 2, 2023

The Eredivisie has long been a difficult barometer on which to judge talent. For every Ruud van Nistelrooy and Luis Suarez has been a Mateja Kezman and Afonso Alves, forwards who fired phenomenal numbers in the Dutch division but suffered mixed fortunes in the Premier League.

Gimenez, however, seems sure to attract interest. His movement is excellent, while his repertoire of one and two touch finishing on his stronger left foot has impressed. Should he mature further physically, interest in his services is expected to ramp up.

Feyenoord are braced for bids and Sky Germany are reporting Eintracht Frankfurt are keen on a deal, though are unable to meet a reported asking price of €35m. If Gimenez continues fire until the January transfer window, there might be more than one club willing to do business at that fee.

Read –Iconic Performances: Aguero mauls Magpies with five-star showing

Read Also – Noughties Nines: Andriy Shevchenko – Rossoneri royalty

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