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Yannick Ferreira Carrasco gallops into Atletico Madrid’s starting eleven
The temperature was rising at the Vicente Calderon, the fervor of the night had reached its peak. And so the chase began. Darting between a hungry pack of defenders, slaloming down the wing with a graceful elegance even in the most intense of moments, and dancing out of tight spaces with agility and an air of artistry, he cut into the middle of the park. He evaded another lunge and cleared a yard of space with a quick shimmy of the hips.
Then Yannick Ferreira Carrasco arrowed a twenty-five yard effort into the bottom corner of the net as Valencia’s defenders watched haplessly. The second-half goal separated Atletico Madrid and Valencia’s closely fought battle and the stadium erupted. If anybody in the stadium hadn’t yet heard of the new-boy’s name, they soon learned as the crowd erupted in chants of “Carrasco, Carrasco.”
It was the night Carrasco announced himself to La Liga. The tricky winger signed for Atletico last summer after a successful spell at Monaco, but wasn’t expecting to break into the starting lineup right away. Like a Gazelle, he is elegant but his lean frame isn’t exactly imposing. The Vicente Calderon is the perfect place for him to develop the physical side of his game and for Atletico, he adds a touch of quality to help strengthen the team’s shift from a counter-attacking, defensive-oriented team to a more complete, high-pressing unit. In this way, they are the perfect fit for each other.
“Everyone knows how Simeone does it. He demands a lot and newcomers often don’t start in the team,” says Carrasco, per AS. “Just look at the case of [Antoine] Griezmann. I thought I’d be a starter at the end of the year, but I guess I have adapted well to the style of the team. Cholo is very studious. He’s our 12th man. I think I’ll grow as a player under him.”
The Belgian winger reminds of a gazelle not only for his long, slicked back hair, but his abounding pace and fleet of foot. It was at Monaco where he developed this versatility that underlies his game. That night against Valencia, he played on the right, through the middle, and then out wide on the left.
Carrasco grew up in Belgium and moved to Monaco in 2010 from Genk. After spending two years with their reserves, the winger established himself as a starter as Monaco tore through France’s second division. Upon promotion, the club signed the likes of Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, sidelining Carrasco in the 2013/2014 season.
Yet he broke onto the scene again last year, bagging three goals and making six assists from a wide position, including a game-winning goal against Arsenal in the Champions League.
Although he occasionally suffers defensive lapses, Carrasco offers a stubborn mentality that not many players of his skill-set have and Simeone will undoubtedly strengthen his defensive game. Carrasco has won four caps for Belgium and it was international teammate Thibaut Courtois who helped convince the twenty-two-year-old to join Atletico.
Perhaps sooner than he expected, Carrasco has folded into Atletico’s new-look team, featuring in their hard-fought 2-1 loss to Barcelona today. “It was a little difficult to adapt,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca, although he’s done that fantastically at Atletico well thanks to his versatility.
Homepage photo credit: fannet (vk.com) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons