Vamos los Pibes: Matias Kranevitter



Name: Matias Kranevitter
Date of Birth: 21 May 1993
Age: 22
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Club: River Plate
Nationality: Argentinian

As one of the world’s top exporters of football talent, the Argentinian Primera seems to produce a seemingly endless string of young players and perhaps the best over the last 18 months has been River Plate’s Matias Kranevitter.   Wearing the iconic number 5 shirt, Kranevitter has become an integral player for los Millonarios in a short space of time and is seen by many as the long term replacement for Javier Mascherano at the base of the national team midfield.  Having just turned 22, his time has come for a move to Europe and he won’t be short of suitors with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia and Manchester City interested.

Who is Matias Kranevitter?

Born in the town of Yerba Buena in the north-western province of Tucumán, Kranevitter took his formative steps with local side San Miguel de Tucuman, whilst also working as a caddy at a golf course to help support his family, before making the 815 mile journey south to Buenos Aires to join up with River’s youth ranks at the age of 14.

The kid known as Colo progressed nicely through the various divisions of the academy, standing out for his work rate, level-headedness and commitment.  Then, in 2012, Kranevitter got his first taste of success as he won the U20 Copa Libertadores with River in Lima, with a 1-0 win over Defensor Sporting in the final.

Handed a first team debut later that year, coming on as a sub against Lanus, Kranevitter would have to wait until the following May before making a few more appearances for Ramon Diaz’s side at the tail end of the 2013 Torneo Final.  In the final game of the season, a 3-1 win over San Martin, Kranevitter was rewarded with his first start.  A sign of things to come.

At international level Kranevitter was starting to get some recognition too.  Despite Argentina’s disastrous U20 Sudamericano 2013 campaign, which the hosts were eliminated from at the group stage, Kranevitter was one of the few who emerged with reputation unscathed.  With Trobbiani’s decision to field four, sometimes five, attacking players, Kranevitter was left horribly exposed but wilfully soldiered on.  When finally paired alongside Lucas Romero against Colombia, it was too little too late for the Albiceleste.

The second half of 2013 saw an increased involvement at club level but he remained a back-up to Leonardo Ponzio and Cristian ‘Lobo’ Ledesma.  Kranevitter would continue to get more game time as River went on to win the Torneo Final in 2014 but was still rotated heavily as he sought to establish himself.

However, it was the arrival of Marcelo Gallardo that marked his transformation into an indisputable starter.  Introducing a much higher tempo, aesthetically pleasing passing style, Muñeco’s River started the season in exhilarating style.  The first 5 games brought five wins with 15 goals scored and only one conceded with Kranevitter earning raving rave reviews at the lynchpin of the midfield.  However, a broken metatarsal against Independiente would rule him out for the rest of the season, although he did make it back in time to make the Copa Sudamericana final, appearing in both legs as River beat Atletico Nacional for their first continental triumph in 17 years.

Now fully recovered from his injury, Kranevitter has been an ever present in 2015 as River compete in the new 30 team Primera and in the Libertadores knock out stages. Having now amassed over 75 first team appearances, the young midfield general has picked up both valuable experience and some prestigious titles in what has been an impressive start to a highly promising career.

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Playing Style

In the time honoured tradition of the Argentinian number 5, Kranevitter excels at breaking up play, shielding the defence and setting the tempo of his team.  Although not the most blood and thunder midfield bruiser, his tackling is exceptional and usually very clean and is complemented by impressive positioning that allows him to step in and make timely interceptions.

As well as his endless energy, what stands out is the intelligence, maturity and composure that has typified his game since he broke through at River.  He circulates the ball well and has improved his range of passing in the last year, while at 5’ 10” he is able to compete well in the air although it isn’t his forte.

His main weakness is his lack of goalscoring threat – he has never scored for River – but, given his position as a deep lying midfielder, this is not something he is necessarily expected to contribute.  Nevertheless, his shooting is an area that could be worked on if he is to become more a well-rounded player.

Those in the know say…

Teammate Leonardo Ponzio dubbed him the ‘best number 5 in Argentina’ back in October and has said that ‘he listens a lot and always wants to learn’

How far can he go?

Inevitably due to his club ties, position and nationality, Kranevitter is often dubbed as the new Mascherano and if he continues to develop at his current rate then he could arrive at the perfect time for Argentina to fill el Jefecito’s considerable boots.  The best of the current crop of young defensive midfielders, Kranevitter certainly has all the makings of a future international.

In the short term, a move to Europe looks a dead cert this summer.  While a number of top clubs have been linked, the name that seems to gain most traction and make the most sense is a move to Atletico Madrid.  Diego Simeone links to River – where his son Gio also plays – and style of play would suit the determined nature of Kranevitter and there is talk that Cholo will make a double swoop to bring in highly rated defender Emanuel Mammana as well.  With Angel Correa, Jose Luis Gimenez and Emiliano Velazquez already at the Vicente Calderon and Luciano Vietto potentially joining, one would think that this core of South American talent would facilitate an easy transition to Europe.

Regardless of which club Kranevitter does join, he has all the physical and mental attributes to become a key player for almost any big club and his committed style of play is likely to endear him to the fans pretty quickly.  In the meantime, Colo will be looking to sign off in style for River and add the Libertadores to his growing list of silverware.