Santiago Cáseres: Amarillo

It was February 2017. Journalist Tomás Bohórquez sat down, shirt clinging to him in the impossibly humid room. Buenos Aires never did any favours, especially in the height of summer. He didn’t know much about Santiago Cáseres, just that he’ll be in and out before you know it. A special player, someone with exceptional technique and ability that surpasses all that Vélez Sarsfield had seen since Carlos Bianchi took to the Stadio José Amalfitani. He was curious to see what Cáseres had to say for himself…

He was turning 20 in just a few weeks but what Tomás saw before him was someone who spoke with a manner beyond his years. Interestingly, Cáseres detailed his admiration for “Tito” Canteros, also at Vélez Sarsfield (interview here). Canteros is a similar player: 5ft 9, Buenos Aires native and also a central midfielder, just ten years on in his career…

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TALENT: Santiago had interest from the Red and White side of Madrid.

Fast forward almost a year to January 2018. A handful of borderline world-class performances, including a magisterial display in their 1-0 triumph over River Plate placed him on Atlético Madrid’s shopping list. A buy out clause of £9m was the price to pay but nothing materialised and Cáseres stayed at El Fortín.

A continuation in form had Europe’s big sides salivating but by the start of July, he had his eyes on somewhere different…

Villarreal’s impressive record of developing players, more specifically midfielders, gives the club an attractive reputation. Denis Suárez, Rodri, Samu Castillejo and of course the imperious Bruno Soriano, who has been there since a kid, are just a few talents to emerge from the Yellow Submarine. The appeal to Cáseres would have been huge and on the 16th of July, the Castellón-based club paid the release clause and he made the switch to eastern Spain.

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BARGAIN: Cáseres cost Villarreal just £9 million

His debut came in Villarreal’s opening day defeat at home to Real Sociedad. Despite the poor team performance, Santiago played moderately well in a midfield that saw all of them bar Cáseres be substituted. His assist capped off a solid performance and shows that not all was doom and gloom at the Madrigal.

He may not top the goals and assists charts but his defensive prowess makes him a good screener of the two centre-backs. He possesses the often underappreciated trait of staying on his feet, something that is rare for central midfielders nowadays (I’m looking at you Granit Xhaka). His extraordinary range of passing and his unmatched tackle success rate from his time in Argentina’s Superliga de Fútbol will give stability to a Villarreal that have struggled since Bruno’s torrid injury spell.

I’m not going to tire you with old clichés, but what I can say is: Watch Santiago Cáseres. He has something…

 

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