TalentTracker is back, and Sergio Díaz becomes profile number for just weeks after his big move to Brazilian giants Corinthians. Join me as we take a look at the Paraguayan's career so far and assess his prospects for the future!
Who is Sergio Díaz ?
Sergio Díaz is a young football player from Paraguay, whom was born on the 5th of March 1998. Although he was born in the musical city of Itauguá, it was actually 30 kilometres down the road where he would begin his footballing journey, in the huge city of Asunción. He played in the football school of current Paraguayan second division side Tacuary when he was just nine years old. Just over a year later he was snapped up by arguably the biggest team in Paraguay, Cerro Porteño. It was with Cerro where he would eventually be handed his senior debut. It didn’t take long for his country to recognise his talent, and he became a regular feature in the Paraguayan youth international sides. After progressing through Cerro’s younger age groups, Sergio completed his best season yet for their under-15’s side, managing to bag 30 goals over the course of the campaign.
The ripples he was creating in the Cerro Porteño academy pond proved to be very steep, and he was given a very early promotion to the senior reserves side. This would turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as the reserves often joined up with the first team for training. It was during one of these sessions that he was dubbed the club’s very own Sergio Agüero. He was very quickly promoted yet again, this time into the first team! Much like talent tracker number two Martin Ødegaard, Sergio would make his senior debut at 15 years of age... He came on as a substitute in the Paraguayan Primera División, against General Díaz. It took a little while, but he grabbed his first senior goal three months later against Nacional Asunción. He would go on to score multiple times, and become a league champion for Porteño. He reportedly received interest from a number of English clubs after starring in 2015 South American Youth Football Championships for Paraguay under-20’s.
After a successful second season with Cerro Porteño, he signed a professional contract with the Paraguayan champions. This is when Real Madrid entered the fray. They moved fast to sign Díaz for €5,000,000 on the 1st of July 2016. I have never seen someone come in and make such a good impression. After spending pre-season with the first team, making his unofficial debut against Chelsea, he joined up with the Castilla squad ahead of the 2016/17 league season. On his debut, he won Solari the game all by himself, getting an assist and scoring a double to come back late from 2-0 down against Real Sociedad B (a side containing Álvaro Odriozola), to win 3-2 in added time. Two games later he scored the winning goal against Amorebieta from almost the half-way line, a goal that would eventually win goal of the season. He yet again came up with the decisive goals against Bilbao B, and River Sestao, but then something happened which changed my view on Santiago Solari forever.
Santiago Solari thought it upon himself to begin fielding Sergio Díaz as a right winger. And fair play, Sergio was a bag of tricks with a great finish. He had all the attributes to be a decent winger for the team. But it just did not work. Santiago Solari would never go back on that decision. Castilla fans had to sit and watch Sergio’s incredible confidence that saw him score goals from his own half deteriorate week by week. It got so bad that his body language and the way that he moved became heavily affected. He played nearly every game, but would not score nor assist another goal all season. This decision also completely killed right winger Cristian Cedrés’s six year Real Madrid career. There was one silver lining, Sergio continued to score consistently for Guti’s Juvenil A side in the UEFA Youth League. Had Guti ever got the Castilla job that he was so perfect for, then maybe all of this could have been avoided. He was also called up to the Paraguayan senior national team, and made his debut against France a year before they would become world champions. There was still hope that Sergio could recover yet...
To try and abandon the sinking ship that was literally destroying him as a player, Sergio went on loan to LaLiga2 side Lugo. I followed this move very closely hoping that he would show some signs of the Díaz that we know and love. It was however just as I feared. Lugo thought they had snatched the deal of the century landing the Paraguayan pearl from the biggest team in the world. When he showed up, to their shock, he was a shadow of his former self. He played ten games for Lugo, starting just two in the Copa Del Rey. He scored no goals and gained no assists, before his season was cut short due to injury. He returned to Real Madrid in the summer of 2018, but to everybody’s shock Santiago Solari was still here. He had no choice but to desperately find another loan, and he intriguingly secured a move to huge Brazilian club Corinthians. As of now he has yet to make his debut for the club, but we are at the very early stages of the season. There is no predicting how he’ll get on...
Let’s take a look at the South American’s CV so far:
- Becomes an academy player at the age of 9 for Tacuary, in 2006.
- Joins Paraguayan giants Cerro Porteño one year later, at 10 years of age.
- Becomes a regular Paraguayan youth international.
- Gets promoted to the Cerro’s reserve side after scoring 30 goals for the under-15’s.
- Trains alongside the first team and impresses, triggering comparisons to Sergio Agüero.
- Makes his first team debut in the Paraguayan top flight at just 15 years old, coming on against General Díaz, in 2014.
- Scores his first senior goal in September 2014 against Nacional Asunción.
- Stars in the 2015 South American Youth Football Championships for Paraguay under-20’s, earning himself some attention from multiple top Premier League clubs.
- Becomes a Paraguayan league champion with Cerro during the 2014/15 season, scoring 8 league goals from 20 games in the process.
- Signs his first professional contract with Cerro Porteño in 2015.
- Features for Porteño in the infamous Copa Libertadores, even scoring against his current club Corinthians in 2016.
- Joins Real Madrid for €5,000,000 in July 2016.
- Spends pre-season with the first team and plays against Chelsea.
- Scores two goals and gets an assist during a man of the match display on his Castilla debut against Real Sociedad B.
- Scores Castilla’s goal of the season, from almost the half-way line against Amorebieta.
- Shines for Real Madrid’s under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League, rounding up 4 goals and 5 assists in 8 games.
- Is pointlessly moved on to the wing by manager Santiago Solari, and absurdly never returned - effectively ending his season.
- Makes his senior International debut for Paraguay against France in 2017.
- Joins CD Lugo in 2017, in an attempt to regain lost confidence, plays 10 uninspired games before suffering a season ending injury.
- Moves to renowned Brazilian side Corinthians on loan, in 2018.
That’s quite an accomplished CV for a 20 year old...
What’s his playing style?
Sergio is a pit-bull. Although not so tall in stature, he is very stacked and has a great centre of gravity. His personality is what makes him so hard, though. At his time at Cerro and Castilla he always left it all out on the field. He can shield the ball very effectively in tight spaces, before opening out his body and going on a mazy run. The video below should offer plenty of examples of how Sergio visibly uses his strength during a game.
Those mazy runs mentioned above are something Sergio uses to a huge advantage. He has been compared to Agüero for a reason. He can weave his way in and out of busy areas all over the pitch, and often these runs come with plenty of end product. His great levels of balance aid him in the way that he drives forwards massively.
When on form, he is lethal. His goal record isn’t the most impressive thing you will ever see, but he is a proven threat from pretty much anywhere in the opposition half. He has scored in a huge range of different ways, from long ranged shots to delicate chips over the keeper. He is able to execute a range of different options to find the net, which is a skill in itself.
Sergio doesn’t have many weaknesses, but this could overshadow everything. It is all well and good listing all his strengths and attributes that have defined his career so far, but as it stands all of those mean absolutely nothing. Every single game he has played since Solari obliterated his development would easily have been considered his worst performance in the days before he ever met the worlds worst gaffer. There’s so much more to it than just a lack of confidence. Although his low confidence has influenced his performances, his body movements seemed to have completely changed, preventing him from being able to take on players as effectively. His work rate has also stagnated during games, likely due to frustration. Because of this he often finds himself easily isolated during games, and his involvement tends to be minimal. It isn’t his fault whatsoever, but in his current form he simply isn’t a very good player. Trying to break into a team like Corinthians could prove to be a huge challenge, but at least it’s a bit closer to home. Time away from Santiago Solari is the only remedy, but I can’t help but have doubts about him ever fully recovering.
Even before he became consistently poor, he was not always the most consistent performer. That being said, time was once again the remedy for this, and if Solari had left him alone when he was doing his thing, this TalentTracker would be full of completely different content.
What are his first team chances?
Unfortunately, at this moment in time there are none whatsoever. I would go as far to say that he has an uphill battle against him just to become a decent player again. I truly believe that had he carried on progressing as a striker for Castilla, then he would be a full time international first team squad player today. Space for a forward in the first team squad has been available for a while now, and with his confidence he surely would’ve had both eyes and both hands on it. It is an indescribable shame that Solari interfered so early into an extremely promising Madrid career, and turned it into dust. Whats worse is that he has been allowed to continue to blindly destroy the chances of multiple other talented players to this very day. This season Sergio needs to focus on fully recovering from his injury, and his long-term form issue. If the loan move is a success and he does start putting in some good performances and looking himself once again, then Real Madrid could still have a huge prospect on their hands yet.