This time last year, it was an education process about who Rodrigo Bentancur actually is as a player. That is unless you were sitting around for the last six or eight months prior to his move to Juventus becoming official delving deep into what Boca Juniors was doing and what a teenaged Uruguayan midfielder was playing.
Luckily, we know who Bentancur is now — and that’s even after he played a relatively limited role over the course of his first season with Juventus following his summer move from South America to Italy. The curiosity as to what Bentancur is as a player is gone now. The questions about if he can hang at this level are gone now. All of the uncertainty is, you guessed it, gone now.
At 20 years young, Bentancur has shown that he could most certainly be a big part of Juve’s future.
At the 2018 World Cup, he will be getting the chance to show he’s a part of Uruguay’s future — and present.
And you better believe that around these parts, it’s going to be a freaking thrill.
You see, Bentancur is expected to be one of the four starters in Uruguay’s midfield diamond behind star strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. With all of seven caps to his name, Bentancur will be starting at the World Cup — a competition in which a good handful of folks are thinking that Uruguay is a sleeper pick to make some kind of run.
That’s right. The same Bentancur who started all of five Serie A games this season could very well match that if Uruguay make it out of the group stage in Russia.
At his very young age and for all of his inexperience on the club level, to see him now be a regular on the international level is quite the development. And for Bentancur to get plenty of playing time at the World Cup this summer, you just know that it’s going to be a huge step forward for a player who did impress despite his limited duty the past nine months.
Just think about how the last 10 or 12 months have gone for him:
- His last appearance at the Under-20 World Cup was against — ahem — Italy.
- He made his official Juventus debut on Aug. 26 in a 4-2 win over Genoa.
- He received his first senior international call-up in early September for Uruguay’s set of matches against Venezuela and Bolivia.
- He made his international debut with Uruguay on Oct. 5 as a substitute against Venezuela.
- And, just a few days, Bentancur was named to Uruguay’s 23-man World Cup squad, which was pretty much a forgone conclusion based on how the last few months had gone.
All of this before his 21st birthday on June 25, too. Not bad, right?
While Max Allegri pretty much had Bentancur as the fourth of fifth center mid all season long — outside of those pretty relatively unexpected Champions League starts against Barcelona and Real Madrid — the playing time wasn’t there on any kind of consistent basis. That’s the reason why the only Juve players who played fewer minutes in Serie A this season were Benedikt Howedes and Carlo Pinsoglio — and we all know why both of them didn’t see the field much at all. But by every indication entering the World Cup, that’s not going to be the same under Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez.
Bentancur has started last handful of friendlies. And now he’s going to get his shot at the big stage at the World Cup in Russia.
While we wonder what the future holds for pretty much the entirety of Juventus’ midfield — who knows what Claudio Marchisio’s status is; who knows when Emre Can is going to actually take his medicals and sign his contract; who knows if Stefano Sturaro is going back to Genoa this summer — one of the few certainties seems to revolve around Bentancur.
At 20 years old, he is going to be one of the youngest starters at all of the World Cup. And based on how he played during his first season at Juventus, there’s plenty of reason to think that the World Cup will only be another step forward — and some incredibly valuable experience — for one of the club’s brightest young talents.
So if you don’t mind me, I’m going to bandwagon the hell out of Uruguay this summer, and you can thank Bentancur for it. (And maybe Martin Caceres’ high socks, too.) I mean, it’s not like we have any kind of Italian representation to root for, so we have to find something other than “It’s the World Cup!” to drive us to the television the next four weeks.
For me, that will be Bentancur. For you, it should be Bentancur.