Is Ruben Pardo a Better Manchester United Transfer Target Than Kevin Strootman?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJuly 31, 2014

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 05:  Javier Hernandez of Manchester United duels for the ball with Ruben Pardo of Real Sociedad de Futbol during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Real Sociedad de Futbol and Manchester United at Estadio Anoeta on November 5, 2013 in San Sebastian, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

If Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is searching for a summer transfer window alternative to Roma central midfielder Kevin Strootman, then Real Sociedad's Ruben Pardo should be considered.

Roma will only sell Strootman to United for £79.2 million (€100m), per ESPN, so Van Gaal should take a look at Pardo.

To cover the hypothetical scenario of United targeting Pardo, here is a scouting report on the 21-year-old, 6', 150-pound central midfielder.


Pardo Positives

Entering his fourth season of La Liga football, Pardo is already one of the premier passers in Spain.

Ander Herrera and Strootman failed to achieve what Pardo accomplished in a league game last season: a hat-trick of assists (during Sociedad's 5-1 win over Real Betis).

Not only does Pardo attempt longer passes, his assists ratio per 90 minutes was superior to Herrera and Strootman, per Squawka:


Pardo is a mastermind. 

Then-Sociedad (now Atletico Madrid) left attacking midfielder Antoine Griezmann gave Pardo the choice of a simple give-and-go.

Instead, Pardo attempted the more complex option with an outside-of-the-boot pass to Sociedad centre-forward Imanol Agirretxe against Betis:


Carrying the ball into traffic, Pardo classily chipped a pass to Sociedad right attacking midfielder Carlos Vela against Real Valladolid


Pardo circumvented Rayo Vallecano's defence with a shot-fake and a through ball to Vela:


Despite a tiny passing window with increased risk of the pass being intercepted, Pardo completed an incisive pass with his opposite foot (left) to Vela against Mallorca:


Pardo is one of the most gifted passers in his age group as the Czech Republic U-19s found out in the 2011 UEFA European Under-19 Championship final, per Andy Roxburgh at UEFA:

A corner on the left was cleared straight to Ruben Pardo and, without hesitation, the No. 6 drove the ball back into the danger area. With Czech goalkeeper Tomas Koubek's view blocked by three players, the ball was re-directed into the net off the knee of Spain's centre-back Jon Aurtenetxe.


The Valencia youngster [Paco Alcacer] controlled a beautifully angled pass from midfielder Ruben Pardo on his chest, and without hesitation dispatched the ball into the net past a helpless Tomas Koubek in the Czech goal.

Before anyone could draw breath, the game was over and Spain, 3-2 victors, had won the Under-19 title for the fifth time in 10 years.

Roxburgh, the then-UEFA technical director (now New York Red Bulls sporting director), and his peers included Pardo in the Team of the Tournament, per UEFA



Pardo Negatives

The major red flag in Pardo's game is his hesitancy to contest. 

League OnlyRuben PardoKevin StrootmanAnder Herrera
Tackles Per Game1.03.33.1
Fouls Per Game0.91.51.5
Tackles Per Foul1.12.22.1
Interceptions Per Game0.91.11.0
Possessions Won Back Per Game1.94.44.1

Pardo trailed Strootman and Herrera in tackles won, aerial duels won and clearances per 90 minutes, according to Squawka:


Instead of being a midfield general like Strootman, Pardo's playing style is in the mould of Xavi:

  • High football IQ
  • Able to pass with either foot, can create goals from open play and via set pieces
  • Expends energy to pass and move into position to receive the ball rather than making tackles
  • Ball-heavy midfielder who is a defensive liability without possession

Would Pardo turn into another Borja Valero in the Premier League?

Six years ago, West Bromwich Albion invested heavily in Valero.


This sentence foreshadowed the Spaniard's struggles, per Rob Stewart at The Telegraph: "Club record £4.7 million signing Borja Valero made his West Brom debut but failed to impose himself on lower-ranked opponents [Hartlepool]."

Valero's style was not suited to England, per The Express and Star: "Head coach Roberto Di Matteo retains doubts about Valero's physical ability to cope in the Premier League."

Nowadays, Valero puts on passing clinics in the slower-paced Serie A, completing 87.8 percent of his 59.9 passes per game for Fiorentina last season: 


Bottom Line

"What can I say about the rumours [about Strootman joining United]," Roma manager Rudi Garcia said, per David Lynch at the Manchester Evening News. "Maybe after a three-digit offer [€100/£79.2 million], then we will sit down and think about it."

Will Strootman be the same player after his anterior cruciate ligament tear

It is risky to bet heavily on Strootman when he is coming off a serious long-term injury, especially when his playing style is gung-ho. 

This is why Van Gaal should consider Pardo as a Strootman alternative: 

NAPLES, ITALY - MARCH 09:  Kevin Strootman of Roma goes off injured during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and AS Roma at Stadio San Paolo on March 9, 2014 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Before you say, "Pardo is not a great defender!" remember that Strootman's defending has improved exponentially.

There was a time when he was not considered a player capable of consistently enforcing in midfield. 

This was pointed out by then-United first-team coach Rene Meulensteen, per Voetbal International (h/t Sky Sports): "In England, some media call [Strootman] 'the new Roy Keane' but that seems like nonsense to me."

If Pardo refines his defending, he has the upside to develop into a complete midfielder.



Statistics via


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