When the world entered into the new millennium, it just needed to wait 25 days to see born a star-like Romário Baró. The Portuguese who was born in Guiné-Bissau – an ex-colony of Portugal – is a product of Porto’s academy, and plays as centre-midfielder and advanced centre-midfielder. This season, as we’ll analyse, he’s playing as a winger.
Basic player profile
Last season, in youth teams of Porto, Baró emerged as a star. The context is not just a circumstance. Last season, Porto almost won a championship, but, Benfica changed the coach in the first three months of the year, and called to the A-team a lot of youth stars that put this question again on agenda.
But, this season, the circumstances look good for Baró, with Militão moving to Real Madrid, who played as right full-back Porto’s last season. Baró now has more space because Corona, the natural right-winger, is playing as right full-back and Baró as right-wing. Even though naturally, Baró plays as number 8 and/or 10, he’s comfortable playing as a winger because he can cut inside and use his passing range when Corona overlaps in support.
Baró can play in anywhere in midfield, but he fits better in the mezzala role. In this article, we’ll analyse how he suits this position and what he can do to develop this role, contributing to Porto’s success.
Let’s look at the general numbers. This season, Baró played four of six Porto matches in the deeper six role. Porto lost the two games that Baró didn’t play and won four. The numbers are clear, with 55% successful actions, 1.57 shots per game, 82% passes accurate, 4.41 recoveries in the opponent’s half shows Baró excels in this position.
The Mezzala role sits vertically between the opponent’s defence and midfield. Horizontally it sits between the right flank and middle corridor, the space that Baró likes to occupy. This area puts Baró in position to help when Porto attack, as he is used in their ball rotations and can set up counter attacks. It’s also close enough to the defence to protect the back four from opposition attacks. The image above is the best to identify the referred space.
The two images below show the most frequent moves and actions of Romário Baró and why he is an essential player to the moment that Porto are attacking.
As said before, long-shots and long-passes are two of the most frequent actions of Baró. In this section, we’ll analyse how he does that.
One of the best skills of Baró is the long-pass, with a rate of 70% of forward accurate passes, or by other words, 9.18 by game. The image below shows a long-pass that Baró made against Benfica, which is the biggest rival of Porto and it was at their rival’s ground. This was the first classic that Baró played and was very applauded.
These two qualities are very important when one team attempts to catch the other in counter-attack when it is off-balance. A good long pass from a midfielder behind the strikers into the open areas is practically an assist and a clear opportunity to score.
With Sérgio Conceição managing the Porto team, the analysis shows more pressing football, which does not let the opponent play and that presses high, in the opposing midfield. To do this, you have to have midfielders who have good defensive characteristics (which we’ll see next) to get the ball back and have to have good passing characteristics in promising situations to make this high pressure worth it.
The image below shows the situations that Baró helps the team doing a really high-press and don’t give the space to other team to play. When Porto lost the ball or miss the opportunity to score, it’s really important they don’t give the space to counter-attack.
To do this well, Porto needs midfielders that press-high, running in direction of the man that retains the ball and try the tackle. Baró is this player. This moment can change a game. If a team is effective at doing this, it sends a clear message to the opponent: you don’t have enough space to play, and it forces them back to their own half.
Another regular situation is when centre-backs or defensive-midfielders try long-passes and opponent defences recover, Baro’s between lines to recover and stay in a good position to distribute the game in a counter-attack from opponent half.
Defensively, Baró is very reliable. He recovers the ball in midfield, presses high and tries not to let go. However, Baró does not recover the ball only in the opposing midfield, he also comes back in defensive actions when he feels that the team needs another player to support.
The image below shows one of those moments when Baró retreats into the field to compensate the team and not let the opponent’s counterattack result in a goal.
If we look at the stats, we find interesting numbers, as Baró achieves 3.91 interceptions per game and wins 59% of defensive duels. The best rate in these terms is 75% of recoveries in the opponent’s half. Don’t forget that we are talking about a younger midfielder that also excels at long-shots and appears in dangerous advanced situations.
In the next image, we can see Romário Baró made a sliding tackle before the opponent team arrive to own defensive zone and cut the danger early.
What to improve?
To develop in his newer role as a winger, Romário Baró must improve his crossing skills. This season, which he is playing often at the right side and doesn’t get many crosses to his teammates. He tried to do it 0.68 times by game with an accuracy rate of 0%.
Next, we’ll see a situation that Baró tried, one more time, to cross the ball early, but without success.
Crossing is one of the most important attributes of wingers. Indeed, Baró cuts inside and in that role, the long pass and long-range shot may be helpful, but it would be beneficial for Baró and Porto to have a winger who can cross with a good percentage of success, which is not the case with him.
Porto’s tactics mean it is the right-backs (Alex Telles and Corona) to cross, but when we think of the left side, Luis Diaz, who also cuts inside, has a superior passing ability, which makes him unpredictable to the opponent. Baró would benefit from this additional attribute.
In short, Romário Baró is a very young player who can improve on many aspects and has time to do so. This season Porto will play in the Europa League, which does not put so much pressure on the development of young players.
This summer, Porto lost six first-team players, many at zero cost, notably the most creative element Yacine Brahimi and captain Héctor Herrera. One of the most wanted players for defence in all of Europe was Militão and he went to Real Madrid. This was the key for Baró to be rewarded for a good last season. When he won the Champions Youth League along with other players who are looking forward to a good future but not had their chance yet.
The development of features such as pressing high, catching the ball, shooting from long range and making a significant improvement in crosses should accompany long passes if he continues to play as a winger.
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