Vickery on Medina

#WelcomeJesus: Tim Vickery on Medina

After New York City FC announced the first transfer in world football in 2018, we asked South American football expert Tim Vickery (BBC Sport, World Soccer and Sports Illustrated) for the lowdown on our newest recruit.


Last July, Argentine giants Boca Juniors were interested in Jesus Medina, and it seems their great Buenos Aires rivals River Plate may also have been taking a look. 

Udinese, the Italian club so skilled in picking up South American talent, were also in the hunt.

Instead, the 20-year-old Paraguayan heads north to join New York City – an interesting sign of the times.  The MLS is acquiring a player seen as special for some time by Libertad, the Asuncion club he now leaves.

Libertad brought on Medina for the last five minutes of a league game all the way back in July 2012, when he was just a few weeks past his 15th birthday.  It was premature.  Players who can cope at that age are usually prodigious physical specimens, which is not the case of the slightly built Medina.  

But when he came back at the start of 2016, he was in the team to stay.

READ: Five Reasons To Be Excited for 2018

By this time he had already represented Paraguay at Under-17 and Under-20 level, where he had showcased his main virtue – a subtle yet booming left foot, generating surprising power from such a lean frame, capable of whipping in set pieces at pace and of scoring from the edge of the penalty area.

At the start of 2017, already with a domestic league title to his name, he was impressive in his second version of the South American Under-20 Championships. 

This is the same tournament in which Yangel Herrera was making a name for himself, imposing his class on the game from box-to-box as Venezuela qualified for the World Cup at the level, where they went all the way to the final.  Paraguay were not so lucky.  They failed to qualify.  But Medina supplied some gorgeous moments.  The highlight; a goal against Brazil wonderfully curled into the far corner after cutting in from the right.

A mixture of attacking midfielder and support striker, Medina can operate on either flank – and arguably offers a greater threat to the goal on the right. 

But it has been on the opposite wing that he has recently been playing the best senior football of his career.

Libertad won another league title in the middle of 2017 (Paraguay holds two championships per year), and then they came close to going all the way in the Copa Sudamericana, the continent’s Europa League equivalent. 

They saw off some traditional names – Huracan of Argentina, Santa Fe of Colombia, Racing of Argentina – before falling 3-2 on aggregate to eventual winners Independiente, yet more Argentine opposition, in the semi-final.

Libertad’s team was packed with experience; it reunited Paraguay’s 2010 World Cup centre back combination of Paulo Da Silva (37) and Antolin Alcaraz (35), plus centre forward Oscar Cardozo (35).  The other striker, Santiago Salcedo is 36, and stalwart midfielder Sergio Aquino is 38. 

In addition to his free kicks and corners, Medina gave the side a sense of freshness, and playing alongside such experienced colleagues clearly brought benefits. 

By the end of the season, he had learned to ghost in and meet crosses at the far post.

Does he possess the acceleration to get away from tight marking? This is one of the big question marks hanging over his future progress.  But there seems little doubt that the sweet left foot of Jesus Medina should be a welcome addition to New York’s many tourist attractions.

READ: Jesus Medina Joins NYCFC as Third Designated Player

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