For many seasons running now, Eintracht Frankfurt have been lauded for their ability to replace outgoing talent with rising stars. The club, due to its financial situation, has had to come to terms with the fact that players in many cases will likely look to move on once they have a good few seasons at the Deutsche Bank Park.
We’ve seen this happen with so many of the club’s best performers: Sébastien Haller, Luka Jović and Ante Rebić just to name a few. Since the conclusion of the 2022/23 season, the club have lost two crucial players on a free transfer in the form of Daichi Kamada and Evan Ndicka.
The club has always been trying to work quickly to come up with replacements for their outgoing stars. Die Adler found a replacement for Kamada in the form of Swedish talent Hugo Larsson, a huge coup for the club considering the teenager’s potential.
In the case of Ndicka, the club have also signed a player that might indeed be able to fill the void left by the Frenchman; Willian Pacho from Royal Antwerp. The Ecuadorian international’s signing was announced back at the end of March, with a joint club for a fee of €9m, that can grow to €15m with bonuses. It is the joint highest fee the club have ever paid for a defender, with Martin Hinteregger’s move from FC Augsburg the only one on par with it.
It’s clear that the club have a high valuation of Pacho and his abilities if they’ve gone out and spent such a significant sum, based on their budget, to bring the Ecuadorian international in.
The contract is set to run until 2028, a long-term deal that could see the 21-year-old Pacho develop into one of the most exciting defenders in the Bundesliga.
Since his signing however, Frankfurt has been going through some changes with head coach Oliver Glasner having parted ways with the club after the conclusion of the DFB Pokal. It’s a confusing time for Frankfurt and their fans, and even more so the club and players. In the case of Pacho, he is joining a club without really knowing what role he will play under the new coach that Frankfurt appoint.
Questions will unsurprisingly surround Pacho and what his level of involvement will be for the coming season, as well as how good of a replacement he will be for the outgoing Evan Ndicka.
Let’s take a look at how they compare in terms of play style.
Before we get into the details, it’s important to note that, as with any replacement signing, it’s very unlikely that the incoming player will be a one-to-one shoe-in from the off. Pacho as a player will have to acclimatise to the league and Frankfurt’s style of play. But we can compare the players general football philosophy.
The first thing that many note when observing Pacho is his physicality. The player is physically imposing and very committed to his role at the back for his club. What’s really striking however is Pacho’s ability to use his physicality to make tackles and intercept opposition play without committing many fouls. In 39 matches for his club he’s picked up a total of four yellow cards, but so far has avoided red cards throughout his professional career. In partnership with veteran Toby Alderweireld, Pacho was part of a Royal Antwerp defence that only allowed 26 goals in the regular season of Belgian Pro League, making them the tidiest defensive pairing in the league.
When compared to the player he will likely be replacing, Pacho and Ndicka share the quality that they are both left-footed centre-backs that are quite progressive in terms of the way they distribute the ball for their teams. Both are strong in the tackle and able to impose themselves on opposition defences to shut down any opportunities on goal. Pacho also shows a strong proficiency in the air, which is something that he excels in when compared to Ndicka. This will surely work in Pacho and Frankfurt’s favour when it comes to both defending corners and taking set pieces at the other end of the pitch. Like Hinteregger was before him, he will be another option for the team to look for when taking corners in the opposition’s box.
Despite having all of this going for him, Pacho is still faced with the prospect of coming into a team without a clear vision for the future. What seemed like a relatively secure situation under Glasner some months ago has devolved into a situation where whoever comes in may have their own ideas on player(s) that fit their style. It remains to be seen who will replace Glasner, but the club have been linked with Bayern Munich’s assistant coach Dino Toppmöller as of late.
Under Glasner, the transition may have been simple for a player like Pacho, who is used to Royal Antwerp’s system; one that relies heavily on build up play stemming from the keeper and centre-backs. Toppmöller has yet to be a head coach in his own right, so his ideas and philosophies have not yet been developed and tested, making the situation a bit more uncertain for players like Pacho.
Despite this, whoever does end up in the Frankfurt job will be coming into an exciting side filled with possibility. Pacho has the potential to be one of the cornerstones around which Frankfurt’s future is built. He undoubtedly has the ability to become a formidable centre-back as he takes the next step to hone his craft in the Bundesliga.
GGFN | Brian Szlenk