Qatar 2022 World Cup. Exequiel Palacios, the “scalonista” of the first hour who overcame injuries and arrived on time

Posted 2022/11/15 33 0

He was part of the first list of Lionel Scaloni, Back in mid-August 2018, when the coach was appointed on an interim basis in the national team and surely he did not imagine that more than four years later he would be directing the Qatar World Cup. exequiel palacios He was one of the players in the post-debacle renewal of Russia 2018. A replacement that, over time, with satisfactory performances and positive results, became the hard core of the squad that is about to live a transformative experience in the Middle East.

Palacios, 19 years old, played the first match from the Scaloni era. A 3-0 win over Guatemala in a friendly organized in Los Angeles. He was a starter in a midfield that also integrated Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso. Four years later, consistency and a well-oriented search for Scaloni cannot be denied.

Born in Famailla, but installed since he was a child with his Tucuman family in the Buenos Aires suburbs (San Martín district), Palacios, at the age of 24, will be one of the 19 rookies that Argentina will have in the World Cup. Although it is a climber of the first hour, their inclusion in the final squad was not exempt from certain anxiety for physical reasons, as it happened on other occasions. For example, a tear in the River final against Athletico Paranaense for the Recopa Sudamericana left him out of the 2019 Copa América. Two years ago, against Paraguay in the qualifiers, a knee from Oscar Romero’s back caused him to fracture a lumbar vertebra that took him off the courts for more than two months.

Palacios, in his last match at Bayer Leverkusen, against Stuttgart
Palacios, in his last match at Bayer Leverkusen, against Stuttgartpicture alliance – picture alliance

Last September, an adductor injury deprived him of participating in the last two friendlies, against Honduras and Jamaica. In parallel, the level of Enzo Fernandez showed a geometric progression in Benfica. Between his last year at River and his immediate adaptation to European football, he got into the national team on his own merit. The Plaza de Palacios seemed at risk, but the low sensitive Lo Celso their chances increased. Not only was he among the 26 surnames, but he also emerged as one of the alternatives to replace the Villarreal midfielder.

Alejandro “Papu” Gomez surely he takes advantage of his left-handed profile, the same as Lo Celso. Being a right-hand man, what Palacios can equate is functionality, something that was instilled in him Marcelo Gallardo when he promoted him to River’s first division squad. “Marcelo has known me since I was 14 years old, because I played with his son Nahuel and he came to see us in the youth games. When he got me on the first He told me that at such a young age he had the maturity of a 35-year-old playerBecause he never lost a ball, but that wasn’t enough for him, he needed him to be a more dynamic footballer, to defend, attack and score,” he recalled some time ago.

He arrived at River, a club of which he is a fan, when he was a child and when he was in the seventh division he made the leap to the reserve. He debuted in first at the age of 17, in a 2-0 loss to Newell’s. Not everything was in an unbroken upward line. On two occasions, Gallardo dropped him to the reserve roster. “Marcelo took me little by little, he knows the moments of each player. He touched me back to the reserve. He told me to take care of myself, to train fully because he was going to need me, ”he said.

Palacios overtakes Buffarini in the Copa Libertadores final against Boca at the Santiago Bernabéu
Palacios overtakes Buffarini in the Copa Libertadores final against Boca at the Santiago BernabéuSOPA Images – LightRocket

That second semester of 2018 was very mobilizing for his career. He established himself in River, disputed the two finals against Boca for the Copa Libertadores and the first summons came to the selected one. He had already worn the Argentine shirt in the South American Sub 17 and 20, and in the Sub 20 World Cup. “I remember that on my first tour with the senior national team I went with Armani and Pity Martinez. Franco helped me a lot, he already had experience from having been in the World Cup in Russia”, he commented.

The definition at the Santiago Bernabéu, on December 9, 2108, gave him such important visibility that Real Madrid began firm negotiations to hire him. But injury adversity got in the way at the start of 2019 with the fracture of a fibula. Three months of inactivity. “The transfer was done, but unfortunately Exequiel was injured. Real Madrid told us that when he recovered they would continue to see him, ”said his representative at the time, Renato Courses.

A hard moment in the qualifiers, when he was injured by the knee that Ángel Romero gave him and caused him to fracture a vertebra
A hard moment in the qualifiers, when he was injured by the knee that Ángel Romero gave him and caused him to fracture a vertebraPablo Villan/Pool ARGRA

Champion of the Copa Libertadores, Argentine national team, Real Madrid… An avalanche at 20 years old. “Everything happened suddenly, very fast, it filled me with pride. Everyone in my family was happy, but hey, we also had to get stronger due to injuries. Thank God I have my parents, without them I would not be where I am today. I always thank you. They taught me to fight for it, that nobody gives you anything”. The Tucuman empanadas that her mother makes were very “convening” for the visit of her River classmates.

In River he took as a mirror Lucho Gonzalez, and when he turned on the television he kept watching if he played Toni Kroos: “I really like Kroos, I try to follow him to learn. I also looked at Arturo Vidal, Pogba and Modric”.

He participated in 10 games for the qualifiers. He was the starter only in two, and in one he was figure, in the 2-1 win over Bolivia at the height of La Pazwhere Argentina won after 15 years.

Palacios puts pressure on Jorginho in the Finalisima against Italy
Palacios puts pressure on Jorginho in the Finalisima against ItalyJonathan Moscrop – Getty Images Europe

With Real Madrid’s interest waning, his dream of playing in Europe, preferably in the Spanish League and the Premier League, turned to the Bundesliga, with the 17 million euros than Bayer Leverkusen he paid for his pass at the beginning of 2020. He had previously rejected a proposal from Inter Miami, of the MLS, because his goal was the Old Continent.

He missed a Copa América, but had his revenge in 2021, when he started against Bolivia and entered three other matches, including the consecratory final against Brazil in the Maracana. His tour in the national team is 20 games, without goals and with two assists.

This 2022 also ambushed him with injuries. Between a condition on his back and another on a thigh, he was almost three months of recovery, period in which he missed 13 Bayer Leverkusen games and the last tour of the team. When the World Cup calendar began to tighten, he reappeared in the last five meetings of the club from the pharmaceutical industry. He said goodbye to the weekend with an assist against Stuttgart. He was already on the World Cup list. Once a starter, later a replacement, now an alternative to Lo Celso or for when the midfield needs to be refreshed. Palacios arrived on time, he has stripes in Scaloni’s squad.

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