Yeferson Soteldo, Dribble God
Yeferson Soteldo is fun. He's miniature, stocky, persistent, wears his socks rolled down, and has platinum-dyed hair. He plays with his chest pumped out and is exactly the type of player you love to have on your team, but hate when your team comes up against him.
Operating from the left, he's improved greatly during his time with Santos and now looks closer than ever to a transfer to a European club. José Carlos Peres, Santos' president, told CalcioMercato that Internazionale's president, Piero Ausilio, had asked about the Venezuelan but has thus far been deterred by the €35 million price tag that Santos have placed on him. Peres added that Everton are also interested, as well as numrous teams in Spain.
Is it some classic Brazilian brinkmanship? Time will tell. But what would these such teams be buying in Yeferson Soteldo, I hear you ask? Say no more.
Soteldo is one of the most exciting dribblers on the planet, with slalom runs that are not only exciting, but lead to tangible attacking output. This assist against Avaí is an encapsulation of the 22-year-old’s game; mixing tight ball control and incredible improvisation, before chipping a cross to a target at the edge of the six-yard box.
While he has always been an impressive dribbler, Soteldo has improved again in the year following his move to Santos from Club Universidad de Chile. During his final season with La U, Soteldo was the most prolific dribbler in Chile – but only completed 53 percent of his dribbles. His dribble completion rate has since bumped up to 57 percent in Brasileirão last season, competing in a notoriously tough league while making 7 dribble attempts per 90 minutes. As way of a comparison, Adama Traoré has attempted 8.5 dribbles per 90 in the Premier League this season.
Soteldo has always been inhibited a little bit by his size – he's only around 5’2” – but, in turn, he's extremely difficult to stop effectively, especially without fouling. He has massive, thick thighs, and an amazing low centre of gravity and middle-body balance. This assortment of dribbles from a recent Campeonato Paulista match-up with São Paulo are great examples of his style.
The Venezuelan is more of a wide playmaker than a goalscorer. Averaging a respectable 1.8 key passes per 90, his trademark manoeuvre is utilising his dribbling prowess to either hit he by-line and cross on his left, or cut inside and centre the ball equally precisely on his right. His short, chipped crosses are excellent and allow the attacker the best possible chance to position themselves to finish. Despite his shot assist numbers increasing, he registered only five assists in his first season in Brazil, one per 540 minutes, compared to 11 in his last two seasons in Chile, one assist per 299 minutes. However, it's worth noting that with Club Universidad de Chile and Huachipato, he frequently played through the middle.
Despite his primary skillset being a sho creator for others, Soteldo is improving as a scoring threat. Typically, this comes through late arrivals into the penalty box: receiving cut-backs and finishing tidily. He dribbles to get into position to cross more than he does to shoot. As a right-footed player, one would expect him to be more willing to move into scoring positions when he picks the ball up in the left half-space; it will add more unpredictability to his game, and make him even more dangerous. Here are his range of finishes from last season’s Brasileirão.
What is also worth noting, in particular, is the majestic slalom run against Fluminense. Not many players can do that. There is so much to work with in Soteldo. He could be a real spark for a umber of top-flight teams across Europe. While it would be unrealistic to expect an immediate impact, he could definitely fulfill a role coming off the bench; a role which would allow him an opportunity to slowly integrate into the elite athleticism of a top-five league.
There are significant flaws for the Venezuelan to work on, esepcially defensively, but his upside is substantial. While not a direct comparison, the rewards reaped by Wolves’ faith in Adama Traoré have been bountiful. A player like Soteldo has the potential to bring that same electrifying and game-breaking speed, skill, and excitement.
Let's hope we see Soteldo in European football very soon.
We profiled Yeferson Soteldo in Volume I of our Scouted Football Handbook. While the print copy has sold out, you can buy the digital copy here. For those of you self-isolating, please consider buying a Scouted Football Handbook Bundle.