Chelsea have been searching far and wide for a left back, with names such as FC Porto’s Alex Telles, Ajax’s Nicolás Tagliafico, and of course Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell linked.
A new addition to that list is Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilón, who spent last season on loan at Sevilla (and is still playing for them in the Europa League as we speak). Who is he and why are Chelsea interested? Let’s find out.
Sergio Reguilón is a Real Madrid academy product, having joined the club at the age of eight. After rising through the youth ranks, he went out on his first loan in 2015, joining Logroñés in Segunda Division B. But due to a lack of playing time, he was recalled in January.
The following season, Reguilón tried again with Logroñés. This time, things were different. The young left back managed to nail down a starting spot in the team, and finished the 2016-17 season with 7 goals and 1 assist to his name.
Building on that success, he spent the next season with Real Madrid’s B-team, then managed by Santiago Solari. Solari’s faith in the 20-year-old was rewarded with 2 goals and 4 assists in 30 appearances, with the youngster also named team captain for 11 of those matches.
Reguilón then got his big break, with the arrival and subsequent sacking of Julen Lopetegui as Real Madrid head coach. Solari was named interim manager, and he did not hesitate to throw Reguilón into the mix. In 2018-19, Reguilón would end up making 14 league appearances — though only 2 of those came after Zinedine Zidane was reappointed. (Yes, Real Madrid had three managers that season: Lopetegui, Solari and Zidane.)
And that brings us to this season, which has seen Reguilón link up with Lopetegui once again, this time at Sevilla, and truly signal his arrival at the top level of the game with 31 league appearances, and two goals and four assists to his name. He’s been one of the left-backs in La Liga this season.
Dribbling, dribbling and more dribbling!
Reguilón simply loves dribbling. And he’s good at it, too, with great technique, close control, and excellent pace making him a nightmare to deal with for opposition defenders. Only winger Lucas Ocampos and midfielder Ever Banega have attempted more.
Compared to a few other left backs, including Chelsea linked Ben Chilwell and Lucas Digne, Reguilón only ranks behind the man who took his spot at Real Madrid, Ferland Mendy. (Chilwell’s dribbling numbers are quite concerning; his success rate is the lowest at just 37%.)
Here is a clip of Reguilón’s excellent dribbling.
Let’s move away from stats to the eye test.
Reguilón obviously loves dribbling, but he has one peculiar habit. He cuts in quite a lot, which makes him an excellent underlapping option. Considering that his weaker foot (right) is quite weak still, this is quite surprising. He loves dribbling inside. What a mad man!
Reguilón is blessed with an unstoppable desire to burst up and down the pitch all the time. He dominates that entire left flank. Here is a nice little gif of Reguilón’s touches and heatmaps from three different matches showing his tendency to run up and down the pitch.
Front foot defender
Reguilón is the definition of a front foot defender. He wants to press and win the ball quickly and high up the pitch, and avoids being in 1-v-1 situation as much as possible. You’ll rarely see Reguilón backing off. Sometimes you wish he would, but we’ll talk about that later.
He is pretty much the perfect fullback for a pressing system. In fact, only 31 out of his 57 tackles have come in defensive third, meaning that nearly half his tackles are in the middle or the attacking thirds.
Those numbers compare favorably with Azpilicueta (nearly 50% of his tackles are in middle and attacking third), which would make Reguilón a comfortable fit for Lampard’s system. Same can’t be said for Chilwell, as the Leicester left back makes 65% of his tackles in the defensive third while. For reference, Andrew Robertson makes 68% (!) of his tackles in the middle and attacking third under Klopp’s system.
One of Reguilón’s strengths is also a weakness. He’s a front foot defender to a fault, so if an opposing player is in range, he will charge towards him. When that works, it looks brilliant, but if the opponent gets past him, it does expose the defence quite badly.
Here are some examples of him pushing up when it was fairly unnecessary to do so: clip 1 and clip 2. In both these situations, Reguilón leaves his defensive line and jumps up towards the midfielders. While he is able to get the ball in these cases, against better dribblers, he may not be as successful.
While he is often successful, he definitely needs to be better at deciding when to push up and dive in, even in a pressing system. His habit of just being attracted to the ball and not noticing where the opposition players are waiting is not ideal.
Here are two clips of him being attracted to the ball: Clip 1 and clip 2. In both these clips, a simple pass to out wide could have put Sevilla in great trouble as Reguilón ended up in the middle of the pitch.
Another problem with Reguilón’s defending is his tendency to commit fouls — since he’s always jumping in and going for the ball. He commits 2 fouls per 90, higher than Azpilicueta and Chilwell (1.1 per-90), Digne (1.3) and Robertson (at just 0.5). This is definitely something he needs to work on.
Not amazing but not bad either
Reguilón is not amazing at crossing.
He is good — 1 accurate cross per 90 and 2.6 inaccurate cross per 90 with 28% success rate — but not great. The numbers are comparable to Azpilicueta’s (0.8/3.3 per-90 for a 24% rate) but slightly better than Chilwell’s (0.7/3.9; 18%).
Same goes for his ball retention metrics, which are comparable to Ferland Mendy’s.
Room for improvement.
Reguilón is a great-dribbling, front foot full back who carries the ball up at speed and is constantly involved in everything on the left flank. He loves pressing, he loves beating players on the dribble and he commits a lot of fouls.
His crossing is not amazing, but because he tends to cut inside, he opens up space for others on the outside. His on-the-ground passes and cutbacks are more dangerous than traditional crosses anyway.
His athleticism, willingness to run, and dribbling technique, along with a few defensive issues make him a modern fullback.
Will he solve our defensive problems? To an extent, yes, as he will be a better fit for our pressing style of play but he won’t fix all our problems at once. That said, considering that Tagliafico, Chilwell and Telles all have their defensive shortcomings in one form or another, this is something which Chelsea will have to deal with regardless of who plays left back.
Should we buy him? ABSOLUTELY. He is as good as Ben Chilwell, if not better and he is available for a significantly lower price than Chilwell. Reguilón is a left-back brimming with potential who can grow up to be an amazing full back, provided he learns to defend a little bit better.