Sometimes, you just end up rooting a little bit extra for certain players compared to others because of reasons. It's not that you don't like the other players on the roster. There are just a few special ones — players who you root for not just because they wear the colors of your favorite teams.
For me, Martin Cáceres is one of those players.
Ever since he was one of the few bright spots in Juventus' 2009-10 season of absolute doom, Cáceres has just been one of those guys that you just want to do well no matter what else is going on. Of course, us folks around these parts want everybody in black and white to do well because that usually means that Juventus is doing well.
When it comes to Cáceres, though, seeing him come back to the club he's so suited for three Januarys ago was a moment of pure bliss. He looked like he had gotten away, but came back home. The kid was back where he belonged. Or something like that.
But enough about me. This is about the man who hails from Uruguay and wears his socks as high as can be because he can.
He's a player that could probably be a full-time starter for just about any other Serie A team who has fully accepted that he isn't a full-time starter for Antonio Conte. He doesn't complain, he does his job and he does it quite well. He could go somewhere else and get more playing time, but he doesn't. He knows his role, he shows up to work, and that's it. No drama, no nothing.
Cáceres is a starter-quality player who probably plays a fraction of the time he should. That's obviously not because of him being not very good at what he does. It's not really his fault for playing behind three of the best defenders in all of Serie A. But when he is called upon, no matter of time between each appearance, Cáceres deliveres. And it doesn't even matter where on the field.
Filling in for Andrea Barzagli? Yeah, got that covered.
Filling in for Giorgio Chiellini? Yeah, got that covered, too.
Getting an occasional start right back if Antonio Conte wants a four-man defense? Yeah, he's also got that covered.
While Juve shelled out €15 million to Torino for Angelo Ogbonna this past summer, you would think that maybe Cáceres would fall behind in the pecking order. Nope. Cáceres has played just as many minutes — and a few hundred more — in Serie A this season than his fellow high-priced reserve central defender. Some of that has to do with Barzagli being hurt and Ogbonna dealing with his own injury issues as of late, but it's Cáceres who has been the first defender Conte seems to go to as of late when somebody in the back three is injured.
The way he's playing these past five weeks, it's easy to understand why.
With every game that passes, Cáceres only seems to get better and better. But not because he didn't play well to begin with. Nah, not even close. Consistent playing time is the key with Cáceres here — as it is with any player that isn't a regular starter. As he continues to get the chance to play, which is now at nine straight starts, he's becoming more and more consistent. The skills are always going to be there, but with consistent playing comes consistent performances.
This good: Since he took over for Barzagli in the starting lineup, Cáceres' WhoScored rating is 7.22. That's no joke. It's not just good, but that's the kind of rating you see from the likes of Chiellini or Arturo Vidal or Carlos Tévez or Andrea Pirlo just about every time they step on the field. But a reserve defender who only had a couple of starts with over half the season already played? Some might think that's a shock.
Not with Cáceres. Even now that he prefers having his hair pulled back instead of flowing freely these days. At least we know the high socks will never change. Thank goodness for that.
Some teams wish they had three defenders with the same skill level that Juve does. Conte has that at his disposal — and then some. It's safe to say that Martin Cáceres is included in that even though he isn't technically a starter.
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