Kevin Mantilla – A Commanding Presence at Independiente Santa Fe by Sebastian Ferro

Kevin Mantilla – A Commanding Presence at Independiente Santa Fe by Sebastian Ferro

Date of Birth: 22/05/2003 (19 years old)
Nationality: Colombian
Club: Independiente Santa Fe
Position: Center Back
Height: 191cm (6 ft. 3in)
Weight: 75 kg (165 lbs)
Strong Foot: Right
Youth: Independiente Santa Fe
Market Value: €1m (Transfermarkt)

Similar Players: Sergio Ramos, Bremer

Kevin Mantilla is a sensational 19-year-old Colombian central defender who has come into prominence over the past two seasons with Independiente Santa Fe of the Colombian First Division. He has managed to build a solid reputation for himself at home at the club level as well as with the U20 Colombian national team, and rumors have been swirling of a potential move to Champions League runners’ up Liverpool FC. Taking a deeper look at Mantilla and his skillset makes it abundantly clear why Europe’s elite clubs will be making calls for the defender soon.

Player History

Born on May 22nd 2003 in Bogota, Colombia, Mantilla spent his childhood playing football in the local parks of his Torremolinos neighborhood. He spent most of that time playing as an attacking forward, or number 10, and it wasn’t until he joined the youth academy of local side Independiente Santa Fe that he transitioned into a central defender. Quickly rising through their academy, he made his first team debut with Santa Fe in 2022 and managed to accumulate 25 appearances before the end of the season. At the international level, he has featured for Colombia at both the U19 and U20 level. Most recently he starred in the U20 South American Championship, leading the defense in all 9 games of the tournament for a very talented Colombian side that managed to take home 3rd place and will be featuring in the U20 World Cup in Indonesia later this year.

Playing Style

Mantilla is a right footed defender that often plays at center back but has occasionally featured as a right back for his club. Although he has a lean frame, he is an aggressive defender using his height advantage to win aerial duels. He is a very eager defender and constantly looks for ground duels and interceptions in order to win the ball from his opponent. That being said, he has excellent positional awareness for his level and stands out in his ability to mark the opponent as part of a back three or back four in defense. His passing range is also impressive for a defender at his level, but he will more often look to play the safe pass in order to retain possession for his team and is not known as a creative or progressive passer.

Here Santa Fe turns the ball over in the opposition third and Union looks to quickly counter. Sensing the danger, Mantilla comes off his line to make an interception around midfield and quickly distributes the ball to continue the attacking build up.

Here Mantilla displays his prowess in the air after winning a header defending the long throw in from a threatening position.

Mantilla is a leader at the back and is often vocal and demonstrative with his fellow defenders.

Game notes

Game 1: Santa Fe v. Union Magdalena (Feb 26th, 2023)

  • Right sided center back in a 3-4-2-1
  • Stayed on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, did not get carded, kept a clean sheet
  • Looked extremely comfortable passing the ball, very right footed, played safe passes in order to maintain possession
  • As the game grew, pushed higher up and looked to play more progressive passes (line breaking/ over the top etc.)
  • Won nearly every aerial duel, looked to win every 50/50 ball and to quickly pass the ball after an interception/block etc.
  • Aggressive in his tackling but was able to avoid too many fouls
  • Very vocal and demonstrative with his team mates, especially in build up play

Game 2: Santa Fe v La Equidad (Feb 19th, 2023)

  • Right sided center back in a 5-4-1
  • Stayed on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, did not get carded, kept a clean sheet
  • Looked very comfortable playing safe passes in order to cycle and maintain possession
  • Progressive passes had mixed success,(progressive runs were uncommon yet successful
  • Very very comfortable with his aerial duels, particularly when defending set pieces
  • Held his position well with the rest of his back line when defending, good timing when stepping out to make interceptions, tackles, etc.
  • Vocal and demonstrative with his teammates

Game 3: Colombia U20s v Venezuela U20s (2-12-2023)

  • Right sided center back in a 4-3-3
  • Stayed on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, defense conceded once, was yellow carded
  • Retained possession well and was often the start of build up play, comfortable passing the ball when pressed
  • More conservative with progressive runs/passes but very effective in moving the ball
  • Fullbacks were often taking advanced positions, comfortable as past of a two man back line in possession
  • Excelled in ground duels and interceptions
  • Was not as successful in aerial duels, eager to commit to the challenge and often broke his line in order to win the ball
  • Vocal and demonstrative with teammates

What’s Next?

Kevin Mantilla has shown tremendous talent, growth, and leadership in his short professional career. Since the start of his professional career in 2021, he has made 28 appearances at the club level and is a leader at the international level and is expected to feature in the U20 World Cup with Colombia later this year. As a result there have been several transfer rumors over the past couple windows regarding Kevin Mantilla, particularly after a stand out U20 South American Championship performance. Top Premier League sides such as Liverpool and Newcastle have all been rumored to be interested in acquiring Mantilla, as well as other top European clubs outside of England such as Portuguese side FC Porto. Regardless of where Mantilla decides to continue his career in the upcoming months he will one day excel at the highest level of football. With his exceptional leadership and ever improving defensive abilities, he will force at the back for wherever he decides to play for and will be a leader of Colombia’s defense for years to come.

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