Luis Sinisterra

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Feyenoord Rotterdam's Luis Sinisterra
Kees van Hemmen

APRIL 1, 2022

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

Who is Luis Sinisterra?

Luis Sinisterra has been playing senior football since 2017. You would think that means he has logged significant minutes somewhere – whether that be with Once Caldas, the Colombian club that he began his career with, or with Feyenoord Rotterdam, for whom he currently plays. You would be wrong. In four senior campaigns he has never played more than 1,700 minutes in a single season.

After two years of semi-regular senior football in Colombia, Sinisterra left for Rotterdam in the midst of the 2018 Colombian club campaign. Once there, he spent the 2018/19 Dutch club season back in Feyenoord’s youth system.

The 2019/20 campaign started off with a bang for the twice-capped Cafetero – he was introduced to the senior side, and immediately instrumental in their Europa League qualifying run that ended heartbreakingly to Rangers. Over the course of the season he managed a goal contribution every 180 minutes, earning his first call-up to the national team in the process.

Unfortunately, a serious knee injury in February of 2020 saw him miss almost the entirety of the year. When he did return, his spot in the side had been taken by summer transfer Bryan Linssen. The Santander de Quilichao-born forward was able to reclaim his place with a hot run of form in February of 2021 – but Feyenoord as a side stagnated in the spring, with Luis failing to distinguish himself and the club falling to fifth in the table by season’s end.

With Arne Slot taking the reins in South Rotterdam this past summer, the former AZ Alkmaar coach has coaxed excellent performances from a variety of the club’s young players. Sinisterra, with 15 goal contributions in 17 appearances thus far across all competitions, has proved no exception.

Luis Sinisterra playing for Feyenoord Rotterdam in the UEFA Europa Conference League

Luis Sinisterra's style of play

While it would be easy to call Luis a ‘tricky winger’ given his explosive dribbling ability, it is likely more accurate to call him a ‘creative inside forward’. When at his best, the Colombian attacks defenders one-on-one at the edge of the box, either to drive to the byline for a cutback on the ground or to cut inside for a shot.

His strength is in leveraging his top-end explosiveness over short distances to beat defenders and break down exposed defensive lines. This naturally makes him a threat in transition: it would not be a stretch to call the Colombian one of the most dangerous players on the counter-attack in Dutch football.

Thus, the switch to Arne Slot, who made his money in Alkmaar by instituting a system that lured opposition midfielders forward and allowed talented young attackers to exploit the isolated defensive lines they left behind, has been extremely kind to the Cafetero.His 3.8 shot assists per match in the league so far this year, trailing only former Premier League veteran Dušan Tadić, speaks to how effective he has been at creating in this new tactical environment.

All of this is not to say that Luis cannot put the ball in the back of the net himself – it was actually as a devastatingly effective goal scoring outlet that Sinisterra tallied five goals in six UEFA Conference League qualifiers this summer. Attacking the back post as a trailing runner, he has proven a more than capable goal threat.

Though his shot quality has fallen significantly both of the last two seasons, Sinisterra actually managed 0.33 expected goals per 90 minutes in his debut season for Feyenoord. That is a strong rate for procuring quality shots from wide areas, and though his production has fallen off in that area, the positional nous that it stemmed from has not.

The runs Sinisterra makes into the channel behind opposition full-backs are still top notch. His aggression testing the offside trap is encouraging in particular – he is not afraid to be called offside if it means he can get behind defenders consistently when he does time his runs properly.

If he were to play in a side that more directly confronts deep blocks, rather than trying to draw them out into transitions, one would expect that Luis’ goal scoring production might actually increase as he runs at defenders less and behind them more. As it stands, Sinisterra is already extremely aggressive about offering to receive in threatening areas in the opposition penalty box.

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This does raise a relevant question mark in Sinisterra’s game, however: his hot start to this campaign has seen him do much of his damage in transition. This is fine in some contexts, but if he intends to play at the highest level, he will have to impact matches against sides that sit deep and defend more conservatively.

At present, he is not much of a crosser – in almost all contexts he prefers to keep the ball on the ground. This limits his playmaking potential against deep blocks, especially from wide areas. His combination play is strong, and his ability to beat players on the dribble will always make him a threat, but the lack of a deadly final ball makes consistent creation in this context difficult.

This is especially true given that Feyenoord’s primary goalscorer, Guus Til, does much of his damage aerially. An expanded crossing game would go a long way towards changing this – and does not seem unrealistic given his sound ball striking technique

Forecasting Luis Sinisterra's future

Where Sinisterra’s career goes from here will depend massively on the rest of this league campaign, and likely the following campaign as well. If he can stay healthy and similarly productive through the next 18 months, it seems very likely that a Bundesliga or Ligue 1 side will come calling. Given that he has never had a full senior season, and his contract does not expire until the summer of 2024, it is difficult to see him leaving soon. 2023 presents as a more reasonable timeline as he continues to grow at Feyenoord.

In terms of his ceiling, things are more nebulous. On the one hand, it is unlikely he ever joins the ranks of the world’s best creators. His creative passing game is not diverse or game-breaking enough. On the other hand, if he can recapture the penalty box threat he has flashed intermittently in Rotterdam, he could be an excellent secondary goal threat and creator at a top side – and one who does not demand tons of touches to impact a match, at that.

With this in mind, his ceiling as a side’s ‘main man’ is probably somewhere in Spain or England at a club competing for Europa League spots, but with an outside chance he becomes a complementary piece in one of Europe’s more elite sides

scoutedftbl.com

It would be easy to call Luis Sinisterra a ‘tricky winger’, but he’s best described as a creative inside forward. He’s explosive over short distances, a really good counter-attacker and an effective runner into channels behind defences.

One aspect of Luis Sinisterra’s game that may cap his potential is his ability to play against set defences that sit deep and defend more conservatively. He lacks the final pass to break those units down.