Jonny McConnell on the rise of 20-year-old José María Giménez, the young defender excelling for club and country...
The 60-second story
- Full name: José María Giménez
- Date of birth: January 20,1995
- Place of birth: Toledo, Uruguay
- Height: 6ft 1in
- Club: Atlético Madrid (17 apps, 2 goals)
- International: Uruguay (14 caps)
Atletico Madrid centre-back Giménez made his professional debut for old club Danubio in November 2012, aged only 17. It was a tough initiation, as his side lost 2-0 to River Plate (no, not those silly – Uruguay's answer to the vastly more famous Argentine club).
However, after just 16 matches for Danubio the highly-rated teen had shown enough to earn a move to Atlético, costing the Spaniards just €1 million. He was vital for Uruguay in their 2013 Under-20 World Cup campaign, where they finished runners-up on penalties to a France team led by player of the tournament Paul Pogba.
His full debut for La Celeste came in September that year in a World Cup qualifier against Colombia, and such were his displays that he made the cut for their World Cup squad. Injury to Diego Lugano meant he featured too, starting in the wins over England and Italy before Óscar Tabárez's men crashed out to eventual quarter-finalists Colombia.
Why you need to know him
Atlético Madrid's backline is considered one of the most solid in European football, after their central defensive partnership of Miranda and Diego Godin were so key to last season's success. Therefore, it says a lot that while Miranda has been injured this season, Giménez has made sure the Brazilian's absence hasn't been felt.
Despite having only just turned 20, the young stopper has impressed Diego Simeone so much that he retained his starting spot even when Miranda recovered, and is becoming a valid option to keep that place if rumours of the 30-year-old's departure come true.
Simeone started Giménez in key games against Real Madrid (scoring in the Copa del Rey), Juventus (where he put in a man-of-the-match performance) and Barcelona.
Despite his tender age, Giménez has shown remarkable composure since he began playing for Uruguay and Atléti. While most young centre-backs show signs of nervousness, he is content to hold the ball, which allows his team to create options for him to start moves from the back.
In high-pressure, hard-fought games he has proven that he can do the job. Aerially, Atlético's December player of the month is in the mould of his defensive partner for club and country, Godin. He won all three of his aerial duels in Atlético's crucial 0-0 draw with Juventus, where he dominated 6ft 5in Fernando Llorente.
His anticipation and timing have been a key factor in his performances so far. He stifled Real Madrid in the 2-0 Copa del Rey win, providing a shield for his club that Los Blancos were unable to penetrate. His strength is admirable for such a young stopper, and defensively he seems like Godin v2.0. Giménez is learning fast, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him starting most games within the next year.
It's easy to see that Giménez enjoys throwing himself about, so much so that it could be a potential problem. His tackle on Neymar in Barcelona's 3-1 win at the Camp Nou left the Brazilian with a bleeding ankle, such was the force of his mistimed slide. Although the Uruguayan was clearly trying to win the ball, these sorts of challenges could cost him dearly, either in the referee's book or by conceding a dangerous set-piece.
In the same match, meanwhile, the 20-year-old was guilty of following the ball for Neymar's opener, and arguably again for goal No.3. He must learn to hold his ground with these sorts of opponents, but under the tutelage of Miranda and Godin that should happen in time.
Simeone stated in October that the club were "confident in his [Giménez] capability and preparation". Before Atlético's recent derby against Rayo Vallecano, meanwhile, Atléti's Argentine manager praised his young defender for "showing growth and stability within the team".
Fellow Uruguayan Godin has also been full of praise. "He's doing very well," said his compatriot. "People talk about him because he's young but plays like he's 30. He doesn't have a ceiling."
- Shooting 6
- Heading 9
- Passing 7
- Tackling 8
- Pace 5
- Dribbling 7
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 7
What happens next?
If recent performances are anything to go by, then it won't be long before Giménez takes Miranda's spot permanently. Simeone clearly has a lot of faith in him and, if rumours are to be believed, rejected a €21.7m offer for the 20-year-old from Manchester City in December. Manchester United are also keen, according to reports.
Giménez's self-belief and willingness to wait for opportunities could be key to him becoming a star for Los Rojiblancos. "I had transfer offers in the summer and at the time I thought I'd leave," he admitted earlier in the campaign. "But I'm growing, learning and I have to continue to do things well... at the same time, I have to be patient." So far, so good.