There will be plenty more transfer action this summer, but VfB Stuttgart may have already pulled off one of the coups of the off-season with the purchase of Spanish full-back Pablo Maffeo. What’s with all the hype? Here’s the lowdown on the new arrival at the Mercedes-Benz Arena……
Having smashed the club’s transfer record by splashing out €9 million, VfB Stuttgart must know someone special joining their ranks as they look to build upon what turned out to be a fantastic first season back in the Bundesliga.
The 20-year-old is a product of the Manchester City youth academy (like Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho), but made only three appearances for the Premier League giants before spending two highly successful seasons on loan in Spain with Girona.
His first campaign at the Estadi Montilivi saw him help the club to their first-ever promotion to La Liga and this past season saw another impressive set of performances helping the minnows to a 10th place finish in the Spanish top division. He was in fine form as the Gironistes beat Real Madrid back in October and gained huge admiration for the man-marking display he showed against Barcelona.
The stats show that he only made five passes during the 77 minutes he was on the pitch, but his main job was to shackle Lionel Messi- a gargantuan task for an inexperienced 20-year-old! He did his job superbly with arguably the best player in the world having a quiet game by his standards.
Such has been his impact at Girona that sporting director Quique Carcel had some very flattering words on his departure from Catalonia. “Pablo Maffeo has been one of the integral pieces of the team in the last few seasons.
“We are very fortunate to have been able to count on him for the last three years and to have contributed to his growth as a player. I would like to thank him personally and in the name of the club for his effort, as well as wish him all the success in the future.”
Many fans at the Etihad back in Manchester saw Maffeo as a potential new cog in Pep Guardiola’s squad (particularly as his agent is Guardiola’s brother Pere), but the youngster sees his chances of progressing served better in the South of Germany with VfB Stuttgart.
“The move to VfB is the next step in my career. Here I have a good chance to play and develop further” he explained at his unveiling. “In my opinion, the Bundesliga, along with the leagues in England and Spain, is amongst the three best leagues in the world.
“In addition, the club made a concerted effort to sign me. The discussions with those in charge at the club naturally also played a role in the decision I made. When I saw the atmosphere here at home games, I immediately said: I’m signing for VfB.”
So what can Stuttgart fans expect from their new signing? Maffeo is a right-sided full-back, who loves to defend making it his business to stop attackers with strong tackling and covering play. He has the pace to serve as an attacking force down the wings and has been favourably compared to a young Pablo Zabaleta.
His ability to carry the ball forward has improved throughout the past season and he has shown that despite his young age he fears no-one as his display against Lionel Messi showed. Maffeo also impressed a couple of seasons back when he faced Franck Ribéry in a pre-season friendly while playing for Manchester City.
He possesses boundless energy and is not afraid to put in a tackle (as his 11 yellow cards this season testifies).
At 1.73m he is perhaps too slight to be utilised as a centre-back and he has admitted himself that his left-foot needs improving in order for him to take his game to the next level. An apprentice under Guardiola, Pablo Maffeo now has the chance to mature into a top-class player in the Bundesliga under Tayfun Korkut’s guidance.
As with Jadon Sancho, Manchester City’s loss could be the Bundesliga’s gain.
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