Lautaro Martinez has made Inter fans forget about Mauro Icardi already. The Argentine has only grown in stature and he now seems to have a real connect with the club’s fans. So much so that he is already proving to be a bargain.
And with him, nothing surprises anyone. Not even the links with Barcelona caught anyone off-guard. Barca sporting director Eric Abidal spoke to Mundo Deportivo recently. Unsurprisingly, he had high praise for the little man.
“He is a complete player. I think he’s playing at a very good level. He is a player we are aware of and we know of his quality, but there are also other players with these same characteristics.”
That’s big praise. Especially for a man who is playing only his second season in Italy. And this season, Lautaro has scored eight times in all competitions. He has formed a very reliable strike pairing with Romelu Lukaku, leaving Inter fans to lick their lips at the prospect of them playing together.
Antonio Conte seems to have brought the best out of him too. The Italian has been known to have workhorse strikers in his system. He saw Lautaro as that ‘workhorse’ and that has worked perfectly in the 3-5-2 shape.
During Conte’s time at Inter, he had a certain Carlos Tevez play alongside Fernando Llorente in the 3-5-2 system. In the 2013-14 season, Tevez scored 19 times in the Serie A and got seven assists. He played only 34 times, complementing Llorente excellently.
That is similar to the target man-workhorse pairing Lukaku and Lautaro have currently. The 22-year-old roams about behind Lukaku, who stays up front- close to the opposition defenders. They know exactly where the other is and know when to lay off the ball and when not to.
Lautaro’s intelligence is key. He has completed 1.1 dribbles per game and has played 0.9 key passes per game. That isn’t a huge number, but the Argentine has won 2 fouls per game this season- a sign of how street smart he is.
Because of how Conte has tapped into his abilities, Lautaro already has a better goals tally than last season. In all competitions last term, the striker had scored seven times. This season, he has already scored eight goals despite having played 12 games less.
These workhorse abilities have been key in attracting Barca’s attention. The man they have upfront used to be one himself during his peak. Over the years though, the Uruguayan’s numbers have come down.
The lack of a trio has been a reason, but that isn’t the sole reason. Suarez has scored only seven Champions League goals since the 2016-17 season. After scoring 40 times in the 2015-16 La Liga campaign, his goals count has come down to only 21 last season.
He isn’t as quick or agile. Age is catching up with him and that is seemingly making Barcelona wonder.
Playing as the furthest man forward, Lautaro didn’t impose himself last season. But he did play there in his time at Racing in Argentina. The shape did have two up front but Lautaro played in the Lukaku role.
And it is important to note that he is still only 22. He is already a regular for the Argentine national team at that age and improving regularly. Barcelona will invest in potential more than the current ability. Having him play as the second-choice behind Suarez will ease the transition and Lautaro will learn during this transition.
And Inter will earn a profit of over €80 million, considering the striker has a release clause of €111 million. They signed him for €24 million and that is already proving to be a bargain. It will be the best business Barcelona do in years to come.