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Sergio Reguilón

Real Madrid to Tottenham, £28m

In securing the arrival of Sergio Reguilón from Real Madrid, Tottenham have succeeded in signing one of Europe’s leading left-backs. At the age of 23 while on loan from Real during 2019/20, Reguilón was so influential a figure in Sevilla winning the Europa League he already appeared ready for first-team football under Zinedine Zidane.

Instead, it is likelier to be another title-winning manager at the Bernabéu, José Mourinho, and Spurs who benefit from his finest years. “One of the players that could show that Real Madrid traditional desire to compete against Barcelona was Reguilón,” Mourinho said before even his appointment in north London, demonstrating he has been an admirer for a significant period of time. The success of Reguilón and their new right-back Matt Doherty could even determine Spurs’ 2020/21.

Tactical analysis
Reguilón is a typically modern-full back who is as comfortable when defending one-on-one from a wide position as he is when he is attacking and providing goals or assists. His intelligence and leadership means that when he is attacking he delivers instructions to the winger in front of him about the run he should make (below), and does so as a full-back comfortable both overlapping or making penetrative runs infield.

He is also comfortable with both feet, making him capable of beating an opponent on the outside and delivering a cross, or cutting inside to play an inswinging cross or shoot. If dribbling into space he seeks to carry the ball with fewer and more powerful touches in an attempt to build momentum; if space is restricted he favours cutting inside and out, often by feigning to shoot, cross or pass. When he does cross, he offers variety, but it is his lower deliveries that are more consistently successful.

When required to defend Reguilón attempts to move close to his opponents as quickly as possible in an attempt to prevent them from turning. If he is defending one-on-one against an attacker facing away from goal he uses his body weight to push his opponent backwards, and his legs to reach for possession; if that attacker is instead facing him he will show him wide, and then use his arm as a barrier between the player and ball to prevent him from reaching it while shepherding it out of play or recovering it.

A proactive player more inclined to engage in an aggressive press than remain in his defensive line, Reguilón detects opportunities instead of risk, and quickly covers ground to close his opponents down in their defensive half. He is similarly positive during moments of transition, where he is quick to react to losses of possession by engaging in a counter-press.

For all of that he is already impressive, there remain several areas in which he can improve. His instinct to quickly get tight to his opponent (below) can lead to him being manipulated into wrongly vacating spaces behind him, and even if he has developed a technique that allows him to compete – he leans into his opponent to disrupt his jump, timing and execution – he can still be vulnerable aerially.

Similarly, though his proactivity is admirable, there are times when greater caution and intelligence would be preferable, and when his quick reactions can lead to him being too reactive and leave him out of position and disconnected from his defensive line, or isolated. Doing so can undermine the remaining defenders’ attempts to be compact, or perhaps catch an opponent offside.

Role at Sevilla
Reguilón was a consistent feature at left-back in the 4-3-3 Sevilla used during 2019/20, and thrived when making the movements Julen Lopetegui demanded. Fernando’s deployment as a defensive midfielder encouraged him to advance, and compensated for some of the positional mistakes he made. Éver Banega also withdrew from central midfield into a deep position in the left half-space, providing Reguilón with further cover. His relationship with the talented Lucas Ocampos, playing from the left of Sevilla’s front three, gave them even more quality and, in combination with their then left-back, a convincing attacking threat; their comfort in both wide positions and infield meant that they rotated regularly.

Even if Sevilla effectively defended as team, Reguilón impressed in the back four that contributed so much to their fine defensive record, His one-on-one defending in wide areas complemented Fernando’s positional strength and awareness, and the physical qualities of the central defenders he was deployed alongside. His attacking instincts and ability to quickly recover his defensive position also made him valuable during transitions, when his teammates would often work to delay counters.

Sergio Reguilón

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