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Samuel Lino’s exciting start to life in LaLiga

Under Gennaro Gattuso’s coaching, Atlético Madrid’s Brazilian winger has been one of the best in LaLiga at his position.

Valencia CF v Getafe CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Samuel Lino arrived in Spain last summer as an unknown entity. He signed for Atlético Madrid from Gil Vicente for €6.5 million, and he promptly moved to Valencia on loan — where he has turned into one of the most dangerous wingers in the league.

Lino’s end product might not be so good yet, but if Atlético can fix that, they will have acquired a potentially world-class footballer for under €10 million.

So far, Lino only has two goals this season and no assists. Atlético have a job on their hands to develop the player, but the potential is certainly there. Even now, in his debut season in Spain, his supreme verve on the ball helps him shape games.

Lino’s path raises a question: is it better to buy a player with talismanic ability and work on his decision-making, or vice versa?

Lino’s dribbling skill and his willingness to use it, as we will see, is as good as anyone’s in the league. His decision-making and shot selection is among the worst.

Only Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski and Real Madrid’s Rodrygo Goes are shooting more often. Currently, he’s playing as well as Vinícius, but on a slightly-poorer team and without a striker like Karim Benzema to link up with — although that has changed since Edinson Cavani arrived at Mestalla.

Lino’s finishing isn’t as good as his countrymen, but his control in the penalty area is better. Watching Lino brings back memories of his compatriot’s first couple of seasons in the league. ‘If only he could finish...’ was the refrain most often used in relation to Vinícius. The same can be said for Lino.

Lino, who turns 23 next month, has a better command of what is happening when he decides to dribble. Vinícius’s style is pure chaos at 100 miles per hour, his speed proving impossible to defend. Lino is more nuanced than that — in a way, he’s more similar to Eden Hazard at Chelsea.

In the clip below, Lino keeps the ball in front of him despite being surrounded by defenders. A couple of hip swivels later, he gets a shot away.

This is one of Lino’s better shot creations, as more often than not, he is launching the ball from wherever he gets it. He is constantly trying to get shots away, and sometimes it’s the only thing he’s thinking about.

In 14 league games, Lino has taken 38 shots, with 16 finding the target. His 2.4 xG, despite all the shots, is by far the lowest among players with as many shots. Only Ousmane Dembele (2.4) and Fede Valverde (2.2) have a similar xG-to-shot ratio for players with more than 30 shots.

But Lino’s dribbling is elite, and he knows it. He has 10 take-ons where he tried to beat multiple players. Only two players in Europe’s top five leagues have more: Adam Ounas and Jude Bellingham. These stats put him in the same tier as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé, who also have 10 multi take-ons (via The Analyst).

Additionally, Lino is second in Europe’s top 5 leagues with take-ons that result in a shot. Hertha Berlin’s Dodi Lukébakio is the only player ahead of him. Maybe the thinking is if Atlético can work on the latter, maybe the former will improve.

Lino’s first LaLiga goal, against Getafe, was excellent. The clip below shows off his smart movement and composure in spite of the tricky angle at which he received the ball. This was also one of the rare occasions where he opted to pass and work a shot rather than shooting on sight.

Lino’s passing range has not been on full display yet, but this is more so because prefers taking players on than linking with teammates. Another exciting aspect of Lino’s game is that he can play on the touchline but also in the half-space, where his technical brilliance with the ball at his feet make him a constant threat. As a dribbling phenomenon, he unbalances defenses, which would solve another major issue Atlético have faced in recent years.

Atlético are planning a revolution, and sales could come as early as January. If the club decides on a complete rebuild, Samuel Lino can be certain he has a major role to play.