Fabricio Diaz: Uruguay’s new anchorman gunning for stardom by Vuyo Ndebele
Name: Fabricio Diaz
Preferred foot: Right
With a population of just under 3.5 million, Uruguay is the second smallest nation by area and population in South America, yet still somehow manages – to a certain extent, to compete with neighbors Brazil and Argentina in terms of producing footballing talent. We’ve seen the likes of Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani all go on to make their mark on the European game at various clubs. As all three stars are now in the twilight of their careers, a new generation of La Celeste, led by one Federico Valverde, is looking to write its own story and establish itself on the world stage. The Real Madrid star is surrounded by some very exciting prospects, with Darwin Nunez, Manuel Ugarte and Ronald Araujo forming a potentially formidable supporting cast for years to come.
With competition extremely high for a final spot in the most recent World Cup squad, newly appointed Uruguayan coach Diego Alonso initially named a preliminary 55-man squad that included 19-year-old midfielder Fabricio Diaz. Although he did not make it onto the plane to Qatar, the youngster made sure to stake a claim for the future, as he’s already regarded as a prodigal talent by the media. Born in the Northern neighborhood of La Paz, Montevideo, Fabricio began his journey at local club La Paz Wanderers before joining the Negri-Azules academy aged 13 and has progressed through the ranks to the Liverpool Montevideo first team.
Diaz’ start to life at senior level could not have gone any better, as he scored the fourth goal in a roller coaster encounter that went the distance — a 4-2 victory over domestic giants Nacional after extra time in the Supercopa final a day prior to his 17th birthday. The teenager played through a cramp late on to see out the game as they had no substitutions left. In a recent interview with ESPN Uruguay, he remembers calling out players twice his age in his first couple of training sessions. Inevitably, this immediately marked the deep-lying midfielder out as one to watch, whilst providing an early example of his maturity and mentality.
He’s been a mainstay in the middle of the park ever since, amassing over 100 appearances for the club all before turning 20. In 2021, he was ranked 8th amongst U20 footballers with the most games played in the world and recently in the top 10 most promising defensive midfielders U21 (see above visual). Now Uruguay’s U20 captain as well as one of Liverpool’s on-pitch orchestrators, his leadership qualities are coming to the fore. The word that probably describes Diaz’ game best is assuredness, which together with his determined attitude creates a very strong personality; he’s barely missed a game in his young career, showing great consistency as well as durability. Both priceless characteristics in today’s game.
In possession, he is an incredibly composed player who offers near perfect balance between attack and defense. He usually picks the ball up from the center backs before distributing it with his varying passing range. Fabricio relishes dictating play, intricately controlling the tempo by working the ball around from the first phase. Furthermore, he has the dynamism to carry the ball up field effectively when need be, confidently striding forward in an effort to find the next best option for his team. This is a common occurrence as he possesses notable flair along with the confidence of a player much older under the guise of youthful exuberance.
Attempting more than 600 passes in last season’s Primera Division, he averaged close to an 86% completion rate. While he tends to go for sensible shorter options, he had 14 forward passes and 7 progressive passes per 90, which are positive numbers for a player anchoring the midfield. Although mainly defensive oriented, he also has the ability to carry out box-to-box duties equally well due to his high workrate and broad skill set.
He picks the ball up from the center-backs and dribbles into midfield. Shows his ability to break the lines by playing a one-two and gets beyond the opposition smartly. (source: GolazoArgentino/Tom Robinson)
Highly technical, Díaz often oversees set-piece responsibilities for his team as he can deliver deadly accurate crosses into the box.
Moreover, he has a masterly shooting technique which adds an invaluable facet to any player’s locker.
As the ball drops to him on the edge of the box, he doesn’t hesitate to strike it first time on the half volley straight into the top corner. (source: GolazoArgentino/Tom Robinson)
Defensively, he is very good at anticipating the opposition’s intention to either dribble or pass into potentially dangerous areas, averaging about 2 interceptions per 90. The aggressive nature of his style is commendable as it exemplifies a proactive approach that often intimidates attackers. A hugely important quality for any top defensive midfielder, especially when going into tackles and aerial duels.
He doesn’t shy away from diving into tackles although sometimes being a bit too eager to step in to make a challenge has left him in unfavorable situations as he’s gotten carded time and again. With a bit more experience he will no doubt improve his timing and decision making in this regard. This past campaign Fabricio averaged around 7 defensive duels, 10 recoveries and 6 counter-pressing recoveries per 90. He’s an ideal player for a high intensity, pressing team and is comfortable in different tactical setups as a lone 6 in the middle.
Diaz ensures his defensive line is not exposed as he steps in, taking control of the situation whilst his teammate covers him. (source: GolazoArgentino/Tom Robinson)
Another factor in what makes Diaz such an influential figure and such a promising player is his general understanding of the game. Liverpool’s youth football coordinator, Gustavo Ferrin labeled him a “strategist” as he is always keen to improve by getting feedback. With very few weaknesses, a couple of areas he could improve in are his strength as it is necessary to hold off challenges and the timing of his tackles as aforementioned. Perhaps another step up in his development would be to add more assists and some goals. While it’s not really what his style is about, he did score a lot in the junior ranks; this would see him become more complete.
Valued at €2.5million according to Transfermarkt.com, he is by far one of the better value players on the market considering the amount of experience he already has. If he can keep up his fine form for Liverpool this upcoming season after his impressive performances at the Sudamericano U-20 championship, a men’s national team debut surely can’t be too far away. Not 21 until next year, Fabricio has plenty of time on his side to still add to his already impressive arsenal of qualities. With mental attributes that complement his technical and physical qualities well, Diaz is set to have a breakout year in 2023.