There are players, who would like a longer summer break and then there are others, who cannot wait for the new Bundesliga season to get started. Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Ezequiel Palacios is very much in the latter category.
It is safe to say that the 21-year-old went very much under the radar following his €17 million January arrival from River Plate, with coach Peter Bosz only granting him a few games in the Bundesliga Rückrunde. The Argentine made just two league starts and a further substitute appearance as he settled into life in Germany.
Leverkusen have a successful record of importing South American talent (Zé Roberto, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz to name just a few) and the big hope is that Palacios can be the next to make it big at the Bay Arena next season.
He arrived with an impressive reputation having risen to prominence at River Plate. 2018/19 was his breakout season as he established himself in Los Millonarios’ first team, making 36 appearances, scoring four goals, and adding seven assists. Deployed as a central midfielder, Palacios was just as adept in a more defensive role as a number six, or more advanced just behind the strikers. He showed great determination, was combative and showed a great sense of timing making late runs into the opposition area to score.
In January both director for sport Rudi Völler and sporting director Simon Rolfes were full of praise for their new signing. “Exequiel Palacios is a technically gifted midfielder with an eye for goal and the ability to play in his teammates. He’s very well suited to our team and our playing style.” Völler explained.
“We’ve watched Exequiel Palacios for a long time and he’s really impressed us. Despite his young age he’s already achieved a great deal and in addition to his footballing qualities, he’s got a terrific mentality” Rolfes added.
He arrived in the Rhineland after a very long season in Argentina, had to serve a three-match suspension carried over for a red card for River Plate, and then had a few niggling injuries and illness to deal with. This explains the slow start with the Werkself, but the signs are emerging that he is ready to really showcase his talent next season.
Time to shine
For Leverkusen’s recent Europa League second-leg tie against Glasgow Rangers Palacios was handed a starting role in midfield alongside Charles Aranguiz having impressed in training. His performance against the Scottish side more than justified Peter Bosz’s faith in him and bodes well for the future.
“For me he was one of the better players with us,” Bosz said at the final whistle. “The boy really played his part and fought well. He was very confident in possession, had few losses and was very aggressive against the ball and defended well. I am very satisfied with his performance.”
With Aranguiz suspended for Leverkusen’s quarter-final clash with Inter, a big opportunity awaits the Argentine. If he can continue to impress Bosz, it would do his chances of a regular place in the Werkself midfield next season no harm at all.
Much of the talk this summer regarding Leverkusen surrounds the potential sale of Kai Havertz. Having a fully firing Exequiel Palacios in midfield could in fact be like a new signing in itself for the club. It is safe to say we haven’t seen the best of the young Argentine yet. Once the new season begins, expect to start seeing just that.