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Is Xavi Quintillà our left back of the future?

The player’s career is at a turning point.

Mirandes v Villarreal - Copa del Rey: Quarter Final Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Villarreal announced yesterday that Xavi Quintillà has signed a two-year contract extension with the Submarine—he’s now under contract to 2023. He joined our B team in 2017 from Barcelona B, saw first team action last year, and has played in 16 games so far for us (two assists, five yellow cards).

With Alberto Moreno (who is still only 27) under contract until 2024, how does Quintillà fit into our plans?

Robin’s take:

As the pundit who has been passionately fighting for a new LB, I’m ironically not sure what to say. Quintillà has fitted in to the squad well, you could argue that he forced both Costa and Alfonso Pedraza out of the squad. (Allen—speaking of which, Betis are certainly not going to pay €10m for him, especially as I understand he has an injury at the moment. But he’s burned his bridges with Villarreal, so expect him to move this summer—to England maybe?)

Quintillà fits Calleja’s idea of LB, he’s got plenty of attack in him and is not afraid of a challenge. Out of all the LB and LW he is actually the best crosser we have. In terms of development he will need to bulk up a bit for the challenges—he’s too easily beaten one-on-one. I’m afraid having a sleeve tattoo does not look as formidable as it used to.

Game time

In terms of game time he will get plenty considering Moreno’s injuries. I am hoping Moreno can stay injury free but considering his time at Liverpool and this season I am really not sure. Moreno should start over Quintillà as both provide a very good attack from the left. It is rare to see them both not tracking back but that is how we are caught on the counter.

Conclusion

Definitively deserves a new contract and will be a good player both as a sub or starter. I would still like to see Costa back as he was a quality LB and was rarely injured. How that would work who knows.

Zach’s Take:

When it comes to the left back position, I’m confident of two things. 1. That Alberto Moreno will be given at least one more year to see if he can stay healthy. 2. That Quintillà is the exact kind of left back Calleja prefers. As you can see in the overlaid radars below, both fullbacks profile similarly in their level of contribution to buildup play with Xavi being a bit more successful in terms of chance creation quality:

understat.com

Per 90 minutes, only Moi Gomez completes more crosses than Xavi on our current roster, and while Xavi is a rather unwilling dribbler (he’s completed only 1/6 the number of dribbles that Moreno has in more than twice the minutes) he does complete a slightly higher % of his tackles than Alberto (82% to 81%). I know there’s a narrative about Quintillà getting pushed off the ball one on one but he’s only been dribbled past five times all year.

Next Season

The big question next year is rather simple, will Calleja still be the manager? If he is, I don’t see any change to our current left back arrangement. Moreno will be the starter and Quintillà will be a regularly used reserve as we try to manage Alberto’s minutes load and keep him from injuries. If Calleja fails to make Europe and loses his job things get much much murkier. It’s possible a new manager will try to fix the club’s relationship with Jaume Costa and rely on experience rather than trust the continued development of a young player.

Conclusion

Xavi is 23 years old. Usually that is about the time you start to really see what you have in a young player. In his case though he has only had one season of top flight football, so some of his mistakes I can mark up to inexperience. If our intent is to continue with an attacking profile of fullback, then given our club’s usual transfer policy I see no reason to move away from a player who could be a reliable La Liga starter in the next two to three season. I think we have our future Left Back right here in house, if we’ll just be patient with him.

Final words from Allen:

The timing of the extension is interesting, since Quintillà was already under contract to 2021. On the surface, assuming Calleja returns, it seems clear that the club is moving on both from Pedraza—whom they have now loaned twice with purchase options that didn’t happen—and Jaume Costa. The Battler’s contract expires in summer 2021 so I’d have to think he’d be sold or perhaps even released from his contract in the summer and told to find a new club.

Now if something happens where a new coach comes in, then I am less sure both Moreno and Quintillà would stay—as Zach’s chart indicates, Moreno and Quintillà are very much like-for-like. I still think Jaume’s age mitigates against him returning (though he is amazingly durable for all the energy he puts out on the pitch).

Pedraza has had pretty much a wasted year at Betis (hamstring pull and achilles tendon problems since December). And his contract with us expires in 2021. The timing of Quintillà’s extension could be seen as forcing Pedraza’s hand a bit, I suppose. I still think we move him on—maybe to Leeds, if they get promoted this season?