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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

ANALYSIS: Tottenham target Hincapie is a world-class defender in the making who needs to be polished

By Capital Football's Alessandro Schiavone in Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 VFL Bochum, Bundesliga

Deployed as a left-back in Xabi Alonso’s 4-2-3-1 formation that saw off VFL Bochum 2-0, Tottenham target Piero Hincapie put in an all-round performance.

From the press box he bore a striking resemblance to Manchester City star Joao Cancelo due to the way he’s built and carries himself on the pitch. And just like the Portugal international, he’s quick and can match anyone physically, technically and tactically despite not being the most imposing at 1m83.

Originally a left-sided centre-back, the Ecuadorian World Cup star shone in the Werkself’s convincing win while playing on the left. And remarkably, in their analysis, Capital Football noticed that Hincapie has both a defender’s grit and a full-back’s technical ability with the ball on his feet. Equally, he can do a job at the heart of the defence and out wide, like Tottenham legend Jan Vertonghen used to do. That's a huge trump card he has on his rivals as most are either fabulous centre-backs or top-level full-backs. Yet astonishingly, Hincapie seems to master both positions with the same level of success.

However the versatile Ecuadorian, who was born in January 2002, almost scored an own-goal when he inadvertently bundled the ball into his own net in the early stages. But like any top defenders, Hincapie had the speed of mind to rectify his own mistake and clear his lines just when the ball was about to go in.

During the game, he showed how comfortable he is on the ball both under pressure with wingers closing him down and when he had more room for manoeuvre. But he just loves to sit back and make life hard for strikers with his tenacity. Hence with Chelsea loanee Callum Hudson-Odoi playing in front of him, he primarily focused on his defensive tasks.

Hincapie, who is reportedly on Tottenham Hotspur’s shortlist, also showed excellent composure in the duels, great agility and the technical ability of a winger despite being a centre-back.

In the 57th minute, his sublime cross-field pass picked out Moussa Diaby who then attacked the space. Gone are the days when all defenders could do was making life hard for strikers. And the Leverkusen star certainly belongs to the modern pool of players who combine both an old school defender’s aggressiveness and a playmaker’s vision as he showcased with that stunning diagonal switch.

But there are still some aspects of his game which he needs to work on. More than anything formalities such as playing simple and avoiding to take unnecessary risks. In the 65th minute he could have simply cleared his lines instead of attempting to dribble his way out from the back. That audacity didn’t come off and led to him losing the ball not far from Hradecky’s goal. Luckily for his team, Bochum are not Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund and didn’t make the most of it. Yet an elite side with a world-class array of attacking talent may have capitalised on that mistake.

Besides, Hincapie also curiously didn’t celebrate the second goal. Florian Wirtz teed up Adam Hlozek after Robert Andrich had won the ball back around the edge of the box before the Czech Republic international prodded home his side’s second at the near post. But why did he stay in his own-half and refuse to join in with his compañeros?

That said, he wasn’t particularly tested throughout the game. But on the basis of what he showed, he delivered an 9/10 performance as he did what the manager asked him to do. His excellent mastery of the ball and South American grinta are striking, no doubts. As Antonio Conte may be aware of by now.

If it’s true that his brother compares him to Spurs centre-back Romero, he also has something from his idol and Spain legend Carles Puyol in that he wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn't give strikers an inch.

Should Spurs break their bank and go for him, they would have some player in their hands. Someone who, YES, may need to be polished from certain viewpoints. But at the same time, a wonderful player with a rosy future both at club and international levels.

If Hincapie joins Spurs, he'll will complement Romero perfectly. And similarly to how the iconic partnership of Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were a cornerstone of the club’s golden age between 2017 and 2019, the pair would offer defensive security and solidity for many years to come.

Attacks win games, defences win championships.


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