It’s difficult to reason that Rodrigo Bentancur wanted to find himself in an every day role for Juventus due to injuries, but here we are. You can only ever play the hand you are dealt, and the 21-year-old Uruguayan midfielder is playing his well.
Bentancur is not an unknown commodity at Juventus, having been signed outright back in April 2017 as one of several Boca Juniors players the Bianconeri gained rights to from the sale of Carlos Tevez in July 2015. Upon formally joining the club 18 months ago, Bentancur went on to make 26 appearances in all competitions for Juve last season. Anyone who saw him play saw his potential, but his youth as well.
That youth, however, was not enough to scare away his national team skipper from handing him his first cap for Uruguay in October 2017 in a World Cup qualifier against Venezuela. From there, Bentancur ascended the ranks to become an integral part of his national team by the time the 2018 World Cup kicked off. And it was there that he truly began to blossom.
Granted the reins at midfield by his manager, Óscar Tabárez, Bentancur went on to push Kylian Mbappe for FIFA Young Player Award at the tournament. With his tenacious style of midfield play that blends class on the ball with incredible passing range to go with unrelenting and physically imposing tackling, Bentancur showed during the World Cup that he had arrived as a complete player and a future star of the game. He possesses an interesting combination of grace in possession and aggression in defense that Uruguay, since his introduction, has found irreplaceable.
It seems, now, that Juventus manager Masamiliano Allegri is slowly coming to the same realization.
Uruguay are a quality team on the international stage; but Juventus boast a midfield that many clubs would like to have. World Cup winners Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi combine with Bosnian sensation Miralem Pjanic, who was slapped with a €70 million price tag this past summer, to lead the midfield line ahead of Emre Can and Bentancur. Breaking into that lineup would mean unseating one of those three players — a tall task for any player, let alone a 21-year-old like Bentancur.
But, Allegri does a good job of rotating the squad, so it isn’t as if Bentancur was neglected before. Still, he is an exciting young player and one that every supporter wants to see more of. An injury to Khedira at the beginning of October opened the door for Rodrigo, who responded to his manager’s faith in him by scoring his first Juventus goal the game after Sami went down. That was only his second start of the season. He has started every game since, and has shown he belongs.
The last young Juventus midfielder to show this much promise was a player by the name of Paul Pogba, who Juventus ended up selling to Manchester United two years ago for a then-record €100 million. Bentancur got the privilege of matching up against Pogba in the Champions League recently, outworking and overpowering the former Juventus starlet as his side picked up max points with a commanding 1-0 victory in Old Trafford.
With Emre Can sidelined for an indefinite amount of time due to a thyroid problem, Bentancur is set to enjoy an extended stay in his manager’s starting XI. As time goes on, Bentancur will undoubtedly carve out a star role at Juventus. But at his age, it is incredible to see the maturity and confidence he already plays with. Injuries are an unfortunate part of professional sports, but they do present an opportunity for players eager to establish themselves. So far, Bentancur is making the most of his opportunity, and becoming for Juventus what he already is for his national side.