Over the next week and a half, here at the Juventus Offside we will be profiling Juventini, their characteristics, and what role they play for their national team. It might not be the most useful for regular readers or general Juventus fans, but I think we Juventini are most apt, perhaps, to describe the quality of these players as we watch them week-in, week-out. We've done Italy players Gianluigi Buffon and Claudio Marchisio, as well as Brazil enigma Felipe Melo. Today, we profile Martin Caceres, the young Uruguayan defender owned by Barcelona who showed far more heart in a few months than defenders who had been here for 7 years.
Birthplace: Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay
National Team: Uruguay, alongside Serie A star Fernando Muslera of Lazio, as well as 2-time Golden Boot winner Diego Forlan. Lugo keeps you up to date on Uruguay National Team news over at the Uruguay World Cup Blog.
Estimated Market Value: €10 million.
Personality: Juventus has had a decent history of Uruguayan players, unlike the recent influx of Brazilians. There have been some important role players, like Zalayeta and Montero, and some flops like Fabian O'Neill. Naturally, as an Uruguayan defender, Caceres was immediately compared to the great Paolo Montero, the fiery Uruguayan known as much for his defensive prowess as much as his anger and poor disciplinary record. Caceres didn't seem like he had the temper Montero did, and he doesn't. However, he did win over Juventus fans with his Montero-style grit and determination. In a year when Juventus was floundering and looking weak, one could always count on Caceres to play his heart out for the club. As a young player, he is occasionally rash to poor tackles, but that is natural. He is a relatively calm player, one who doesn't seem to cause any problems within the squad, and one who gives him all. His personality is one that every club would like in their young players, a player full of spirit and grinta who dedicates himself to the team.
Preferred Foot: Right foot. While he played center-back in Spain and often with Uruguay, at Juventus he has almost exclusively been used as a right-back.
Media Status: Moderately well known in Italy, and the same in Spain. He's status is probably that of a "talented young player with moderate experience." Made his senior team debut in 2006-2007 back in Uruguay, signed by Villarreal the following summer. He was immediately sent on loan to Recreativo, he made his name there and was then signed for a significant 16.5million euros at age 21 by Barcelona. He endured a mediocre season there, despite the silverware, as Guardiola preferred Yaya Toure to him as a center-back in the Champions League final. This summer, he came to Juventus on loan. Despite his young age, he has shown plenty of talent and played for some big clubs, and already locked up a spot as a starter for his national team.
With Barcelona- La Liga, Copa Del Rey, and Champions League, all in 2008-2009.
Strengths: Caceres is a very rugged player, that is to say despite his very thin frame, he tackles strong and hard. In his first month or so in Italy, he was often caught out of position but has significantly refined his positioning since. Defensively, he is rough around the edges, but generally a good defender, against Inter he was named Man-of-the-Match due to his battling defensive display. As mentioned in the personality section, he plays with a lot of grit and steel, which is a major positive to his defensive abilities, he works hard and never gives up. Offensively, he has decent crossing and dribbling abilities. He does well to get forward in support of the attack, and has plenty of endurance and pace to be effective up top as well as back in defense.
Weaknesses: Caceres is a very promising young player who not only offers a great future, but a solid enough present as well. It is expected that all his skills will grow as he progresses. The only real weakness Caceres has is his inexperience and his consequential "rough-around-the-edges defending." He is a defender that is strong in the slide challenge (unlike his opposite Paolo De Ceglie, a young Italian wingback who rarely slidetackles), and as such, he occasionally mistimes it, leading towards penalties or dead ball situations close to goal. This happened in the critical Champions League match against Bayern Munich, at home Juventus went up 1-0 through Trezeguet, needing only a draw to progress. Caceres had a mistimed challenge in the box conceding a penalty, and Juventus capitulated at home 1-4. It would be wrong to pin the heavy defeat on Caceres as Juventus looked plenty likely to concede before, but it was obviously a significant setback. The only other note I'd say regarding his weakness is like Italy international Domenico Criscito, I'm not sure he has the physical stature to play center-back in Italy. In La Liga he certainly could, it's a bit less rough-and-tumble than Serie A.
Status on Club Team: To define this, you'd have tto first define what his club team is, as he is on loan from Barcelona and it appears Juventus will try and negotiate down his buyout price. For these posts, I'm working on their past season at Juventus, so it would "young player challenging for a first team spot." Due to the inadequacy of the other right-backs, Jonathan Zebina and Zdenek Grygera, Caceres quickly locked up a first-team spot at Juve. Unfortunately, a few injuries and a serious hernia kept him out for most of the Spring, though he recovered to be available for the last two Juventus games. I believe most Juventini want Caceres to stay, and as Barcelona has no need for him, it's possible, though Barcelona wants 11mil for him.
2009-2010 Club Season: Caceres arrived at Juventus on loan, Barca didn't want him anymore and Ciro Ferrara was unsatisfied with his set list of fullbacks. (he later went out and signed Fabio Grosso) He was often compared to Paolo Montero, though it appeared he was going to play more as a right-back than as a center-back. Caceres had a relatively successful club season, aside from the injury turmoil that plagued him in the Spring. He quickly displaced Jonathan Zebina and Zdenek Grygera as the preferred right-back, and in the incredibly disappointing season that it was, he was one of the few bright lights. Caceres is not a world-class defender yet, he makes position and defensive mistakes from time-to-time, but Juventini saw the potential for a world-class player. Given that he was thrown into a tumultuous club and moved from a relatively offensive league to a tactical, defensive one, I think most Juventus and neutrals approved of his performance.
Status in National Team: Important substitute. He made his debut at age 20, in September 2007. Though Caceres isn't one of the superstars of the Uruguayan national team, he has won himself one a starting shirt, as he played most of the qualifiers he was healthy for. The blemish on qualifying for Uruguay was Caceres getting sent off against Argentina for a relatively stupid handball, which allowed Argentina to beat Uruguay and claim an automatic berth. However, Uruguay's coach has changed to a 3-4-3 formation for the World Cup, which doesn't really favor Caceres.
Expected Performance for National Team: Between Caceres mistake against Argentina and his mistake against Bayern, one could say he makes errors in high profile games. That'd be a harsh judgement, as one of his best performances came in the Derby D'Italia. I think Caceres will be one that you hear little about in South Africa, and for a defender, that's not a bad thing. I doubt he'll be scoring screamers like Maicon, but I don't expect him to be committing any major errors. One thing to note is that he is coming off a very injury-plagued 4 months or so, in which he only played one or two games. It all depends on how much he plays, he is not starting given the formation change and injury issues, but he could see important time as a substitute.
Random Fact: With his first club Defensor in Uruguay, Martin Caceres played not just as a fullback, or a centerback, but also in central midfield.
In one word: Grinta.
YouTube Comp with (the definition of) Questionable Music:
Nice dribbling, doesn't give up, then a perfect cross
World Cup Player Profiles and Other Links:
#1- Gianluigi Buffon
#2- Claudio Marchisio
#3- Felipe Melo
#4- Martin Caceres
#5- Fabio Cannavaro
#6- Vincenzo Iaquinta
#7- Mauro Camoranesi
#8- Christian Poulsen
#9- Giorgio Chiellini