LaLiga’s Best Young Players Series: Diego Lainez at Real Betis
Updated: Feb 23
Written by Andrew Miller
As part of our new collaboration with scouting platform FIVEYARDS (@FIVE__YARDS on Twitter), we at La Liga Lowdown are delighted to bring you a new regular feature. Each week, we will introduce a public vote for followers to select their favourite young player for each LaLiga club. The winner of the Twitter poll will then be profiled on our site using FIVEYARDS data.
Our LaLiga starlet for this week, as voted by you, is the fondly named “Mexican Messi”. It’s 20-year-old Real Betis winger Diego Lainez.
After an up-and-down start to life at the Benito Villamarín, Lainez is finally starting to show flashes of the player Betis were willing to pay €15m for back in January 2019. A fearlessly creative and technically mature attacking midfielder who can hold his own in any position across a front three, Lainez is far from an imposing physical threat, but like his Argentine hero, more than makes up for it in attacking intelligence.
The Lowdown: Story and Stats
Joining Real Betis in the 2019 January transfer window from Mexican giants Club América, Lainez was gently eased into the first team by then-manager Quique Setién, starting just three of his 12 games, but a debut goal in the Europa League knockout stages against Stade Rennais brought on a frenzy of excitement within the Bético faithful.
A large part of Lainez’ attractiveness is predicated on his unpredictability. The young left-footed Mexican can stop and start on a dime, switch direction with frightening pace and his low centre of gravity means the ball is always glued to his feet.
But it’s not only beautiful technical skills that make the 20-year-old standout.
His instinctual passing is both a blessing and a curse. Lainez keeps defenders guessing at all times, completing around 88.3% of his short passes and utilising his off-ball movement to open up space for the forwards, but his decision-making on moving the ball further up the pitch still needs a lot of work. No one can question the winger’s attitude and determination on the field. Developing in a tough physical competition like Liga MX has hardened Lainez from a very young age, so he’s not afraid to get down and dirty when it matters. He plays with an irrational confidence and an “if you want the ball, come and get it” mentality which will always go down well at the Benito Villamarín.
As a ball-carrier, he is one of the very best in Manuel Pellegrini’s side, progressing the ball forward on average 167 yards per match, with 9.39 progressive carries per 90.
He passes the eye-test as well as having the stats to back it up. The Mexican international is a huge amount of fun to watch. His instantaneously quick first-step and overall awareness of his surroundings tend to mean no avenue is off-limits when it comes to running with the ball, and with 3.44 dribbles completed and 0.31 nutmegs per 90 (ALWAYS an important stat), Lainez is exactly the type of player defenders hate to see coming towards them.
Lainez is very much a creator at this stage of his still young career. Firing an average of 2.82 crosses into the box per 90 minutes, this is an aspect of Betis’ tactics that they have lacked this season and last, especially with big target man Borja Iglesias up front.
A Bright Future Ahead
There are still a lot of question marks around Diego Lainez as a long-term star in LaLiga, but at only 20 years of age, he’s already an established senior international with El Tri and is beginning to make a name for himself as a potential successor to Betis legend Joaquín.
If Los Verdiblancos can achieve European football next season, Lainez will be in prime position to establish himself on the continental stage and take that next step to becoming the player everyone knows he can be.
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