Club Tijuana announced the signing of Paraguayan National Team forward Juan Manuel Iturbe yesterday, ending speculation around his future. After a sting with Torino in Italy’s Serie A, the 24 year old heads to Tijuana on loan from AS Roma.
I spoke with Tito Kohout of Viola Nation - SB Nation’s Fiorentina blog - about what Iturbe brings to the table for Xolos.
"He's one of those players who seems like he should be a lot better than he is. He's got all the attributes you want in an attacker--pace, dribbling, shooting, work rate--except for the decision-making and the intelligence of movement. He was brilliant at Hellas Verona, where he mostly played on the counter; the team was pretty much built around his counter-attacking threat. He likes to start on the left, then cut inside as quickly as possible to play in a teammate or (much more likely) have a shot. He can work on the right or through the middle, but using him on the wing is probably the best way to get the most out of his skillset.
He looked like a world-beater in 2013-2014, but he's looked like rubbish ever since. Part of it may be that defenses have figured him out; he's kind of a one-trick pony, and the one trick is being very fast, then cutting in and shooting. He's not good enough at it to make him a successful one-trick pony, a la Arjen Robben, and I think that's the problem. His confidence seemed to waver pretty hard under Rudi Garcia, who didn't give him a lot of playing time, and he wound up underwhelming in loan moves to Bournemouth and, more recently, Torino. The latter is where he should have been brilliant, given that Torino was in all-out attack mode last season, but he couldn't beat out Adem Ljajic or Iago Falque and barely featured.
I think at this point, he probably just needs steady minutes to get back to where he was. Dude's only 24, so it's not like he's totally washed up. He's certainly got the quality to make an impact, especially if they handle him with kid gloves. With his dribbling and pace, he should be a good fit in Mexico. His decision-making in the final third is kind of bad, so he'll frustrate the heck out of you when he puts his head down in the area, but you can probably put him on the wing and tell him to make something happen and he'll do it.
Also, pacey, young, promising South American forwards who flamed out at Torino seems to be a category that does pretty well in the Western Hemisphere (Josef Martinez), so there's that, too."
With this in mind, it sounds like Iturbe will still be an upgrade on he right over Quick Mendoza and Mauricio Cuero, who was rumored to be heading to Independients in Argentina. Mendoza had shown a great deal of promise along the right for Tijuana, so if Iturbe flounders Eduardo Coudet still has an solid option on the wing. That said, if Chacho can tap into Iturbe’s potential, Xolos could once again be an offensive force to be reckoned with in Liga MX.