Scouting Leo Baptistao: Rumoured Manchester United Target

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

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Manchester United are the Premier League's top goalscorers this season, but that hasn't stopped manager Sir Alex Ferguson looking around for the best of the next generation of strikers. And his eye appears to have been caught by Rayo Vallecano youngster Leo Baptistao.

According to ESPN United hopes to arrange a deal for the forward, though several other sides are also said to be extremely interested in signing him.

Only 20 years old and a regular from the start of this season at his club, Baptistao has played his way into the scouting notebooks of several big clubs since hitting a debut goal in August.

To date, he has scored six goals in La Liga in 17 appearances.

On a team which has only scored 25 goals all season—that equates to very nearly one quarter of all their scores—and he has a further five assists to his name too, meaning he has been directly involved in 44 percent of Rayo's league strikes.

Though not blessed with blistering pace, Baptistao does have good acceleration and a long, loping stride which enables him to out-run defenders. He works the channels well and is comfortable playing either as the team's go-to man up top or else as a supporting striker.

His tall and relatively strong frame means he is adept in holding up the ball and bringing his teammates into play, though he is just as confident running with the ball at the defence himself—and often finding a shot at the end of it.

Baptistao averages 2.4 shots per game for Rayo, which is comparable to the likes of Roberto Soldado of Valencia and Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid.

Not only is he a forward with a real eye for goal, but he is frequently heavily involved in the build-up phases for his team. His confidence and composure on the ball sees him complete an average of 1.8 dribbles per game—only five players in the entire top flight manage more.

With three of those being , Andres Iniesta and Leo Messi, it's clear the kind of company he keeps shows that this is a very genuine ability of Baptistao's.

Already an important player for his team, Baptistao has helped Rayo up to seventh place in La Liga, only two points off an Europa League position as things stand.

He's one of the hottest young talents in Spain right now and the Brazilian forward could soon find himself playing at a higher level—his release clause is estimated to be only €8 million.

In terms of fitting in at Manchester United, Baptistao doesn't really tally with any of the strikers the Red Devils have at the moment. Assessing his quality on the ball and creativity, he's probably most similar to former United forward Dimitar Berbatov—except with a lot more energy and apparent enthusiasm.

If United are indeed interested they'll have to be quick as several other Premier League sides have also been monitoring his form and Atletico Madrid are the favourites for his signature.


Statistical data courtesy of