An illustration of Peñarol striker Agustín Álvarez Martínez
William Savage

JUNE 14, 2022

Note: This profile was first written in November 2021. All statistics and facts are correct to that time period.

Who is Agustín Álvarez Martínez?

Agustín Álvarez Martínez scores goals. That is all you need to know, but read on anyway. The centre-forward, who only turned 20 in May, scored prolifically at youth level. Some players take time to adjust to the step up, but the young Uruguay forward needed no such transition period. While he spent 2020 being phased into the CA Peñarol first team, having come through the club’s academy, he has thrived in 2021, having been given more responsibility for spearheading the club’s attack.

Most notably, Álvarez Martínez scored eight goals in ten games in the Copa Sudamericana; a competition in which he shone as Peñarol reached the quarter-finals, the highlight being a perfect hat-trick against Corinthians in the group stages. Martínez is averaging a goal every other game across all competitions in his career, at the time of writing, or a goal every 147 minutes.

While he is slightly over-performing xG so far, his ability to find goalscoring opportunities suggests he has a career ahead of him as a consistent goalscorer. Beyond making his name finding the back of the net, Martínez is a well-rounded forward who has provided Peñarol with a focal point in attack.

Martínez has translated his form to the international stage, too. He made his debut in September, scoring Uruguay’s third goal in a 4-2 win over Bolivia. He has already picked up his second cap and, although he is far from being the undisputed centre-forward for his nation, there is little doubt that he is a promising prospect to take over the role in future.

While the names of Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlán will bring a lot of pressure, the young Uruguayan hitman seems grounded and mature enough to shoulder the burden. With the 20-year-old striker already linked with the likes of Real Madrid, it is a good thing he seems so grounded.

Agustín Álvarez Martínez playing for Peñarol, pointing to a cut on his brow

Agustín Álvarez Martínez's style of play

We will start with the goals. Like all players who score consistently, the Uruguayan hitman is regularly in dangerous areas. His heatmaps always have the area between the penalty spot and the six yard box lit up; this is where he feasts.

For such a young age, his shot selection is impressive. Most of his goals come from this area: usually slightly left of centre, struck across goal towards the bottom corner. That being said, he is far from a one-trick pony. Put the ball in the box and he will get a shot away.

He is comfortable shooting with his left, and he is a threat in the air too. By no means a giant at just 5′11, he manages to trouble opposition defences in the air. He couples a strong leap with sharp movement, regularly dropping a little deeper before a cross comes in so he can attack it on the run, rather than a standing start. Beyond this, he has a penchant for the spectacular – he scored with a scissor kick against Liverpool (not that Liverpool) in July.

Generally speaking, if there is a way to manufacture a shot on goal from any situation, Álvarez Martínez will manage it. At times, this can feel a little too much. He has garnered a reputation for scoring directly from free-kicks, but this is obviously high variance. Most of his shots from distance end up not threatening the goal.

On the one hand, his shot selection is already better than many players who are twice as experienced as him, and should improve further under a good coach. On the other hand, such selfish single-mindedness can often be the primary motivation for goalscorers, and coaching it out of him entirely may end up removing what sets him apart from his peers.

Agustín Álvarez is more than just a poacher, however. While he is unlikely to be mistaken for a ‘false nine’, he is comfortable dropping deep, or moving into the half-spaces. His frame and solid aerial ability mean he is comfortable trying to occupy defenders, and bringing team-mates into the game rather than simply waiting for the ball to come to him.

His intelligent movement is not confined solely to the penalty area, and he is able to alternate between pinning defenders by threatening to attack the goal, and peeling away from the defensive line to combine with team-mates.

This gives opposing centre-backs a problem. If they go with him, they leave a gap in the defensive line that an attacker can run into. If they hold their position, then Martínez will have time to receive the ball and turn.

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In either of these situations, the forward can create danger. If he pulls a defender with him, he can play a one-touch pass into the path of a team-mate and expose the unsettled defence. If the defender holds their position, Martínez has the ability to slip a team-mate into the space behind the defence. He is intelligent enough to peel wide when the situation requires, and generally takes up positions to try and imbalance the defence during transitions, rather than simply running towards goal in a straight line.

His size is a curious element of his game. He is strong enough to be a handful in the air but also small enough to ‘buy’ fouls. If he cannot win a header, he is capable of putting his body between the dropping ball and his opponent to draw a free-kick.

Out of possession, Martínez is also able to contribute. He generally holds position well and rarely presses out of turn. However, it is worth accounting for the slower tempo of his current league which affords teams more time. The demands placed on him in other leagues may be greater. His awareness and hard-working nature should mitigate that.

Forecasting Agustín Álvarez Martínez's future

Agustín Álvarez Martínez is already a big deal. He leads the line for Peñarol and has already scored for Uruguay, and his ascent has been rapid. In a situation such as this, it is inevitable that a player will be linked with a host of clubs – AFC Ajax and Real Madrid being two of the least surprising names.

All that being said, and without wanting to take anything away from Martínez’s impressive progress, he has achieved what he has achieved in the Uruguayan Primera División and Copa Sudamericana, not in La Liga and the Champions League.

A stepping stone move is fairly common for players in this position – a couple of years at a big club in Argentina, or Brazil, or in the increasingly popular MLS, usually precede a move to Europe. Martínez is known to have a humble attitude, and being able to keep his feet on the ground following his rise to prominence will be key to continuing his progress.

Agustín Álvarez Martínez is a goalscorer that is adept at getting into dangerous positions and taking sensible shots. Predominantly right-footed, he is a decent striker off his left and a threat in the air as well. Furthermore, he is comfortable dropping deepper to link play.

Agustín Álvarez Martínez’s principle weakness at the moment is his sometimes too selfish with his decision-making, preferring to generate shots for himself than others. There are also question marks about the level of opponents he’s faced in his career thus far.

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