Upon categorising the world’s most complete midfielders, some of the names that instantly spring to mind are players like Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Luka Modric. Another man who should definitely be added to list is Udinese’s midfield star, Allan.
This season, his third with the club, has seen him continue to grow under Andrea Stramaccioni, after initially thriving under Francesco Guidolin’s tutelage.
The superbly rounded midfield has quite possibly been Udinese’s most important player this campaign, as he always performs whatever role he’s assigned to with undying dedication and commitment. The former Vasco da Gama prodigy was once again superb in Udinese’s thrilling 3-2 win over Torino, putting in a customarily excellent shift.
Stramaccioni organised his side into what was ostensibly a 3-4-2-1, with Allan fitting in as the right sided central attacking midfielder in behind Antonio Di Natale and alongside Panagiotis Kone.
Although according to the team sheet he was named as an attacking midfielder, his role encompassed him having to act in more the role of a central midfielder.
When in possession Alan would be positioned in predominantly right wing and right of centre positions, acting as a possession facilitator. Moreover, by operating in these areas, he’d importantly provide vital cover for his attacking wing back Silvan Widmer to thrive.
The Swiss youngster, who has been a wonderful source of attacking power this season, was allowed the freedom to motor forward and act in a similar mould to that of a traditional winger throughout his team’s attacking phases, largely due to Allan’s selfless positioning (refer to Allan’s Squawka Heat Map below).
The 24 year old workhorse made sure to always track back when his side weren’t in control of the ball. Persistent pressing and harrying of Torino from the diminutive midfielder meant he was an ever present when looking to quell the visiting side. Alexander Farnerud (his opponent) particularly wasn’t given much respite, so much so that he was substituted in the 54th minute. Omar El Kaddouri, his replacement, didn’t fare much better either, suffering from another quality blanketing job.
One of Europe’s best tacklers is Allan, and he did justice to the tag in this contest. The desire and tenacity outpoured when he makes challenges is amazing to watch, and when combined with a superlative ability to perfectly time his tackles, he’s undoubtedly a beast in this regard.
It’s no fluke he’s Serie A’s top tackler, averaging a magnificent 4.6 tackles a game – way ahead of the next best (Lucas Biglia, who averages 3.8).
While Allan undertook his defensive duties duly, he also played a key role in attack. Subtle movements when looking to receive the ball in around his marker Farnerud saw him prove to be a very elusive customer and have a real impact. He’d mix it up by dropping deep, moving infield and even sprinting across the field to provide an outlet if a colleague looked in trouble. But he also made sure his defensive responsibilities were never neglected.
Once in possession, the superb dribbling ability he possesses caused numerous headaches for his opposition. Acceleration, shoulder drops, great skills, strength on the ball, tidy passing and an accurate crossing ability all culminated to see the Brazilian wreak havoc on Torino. The neat, tidy economical ball handler brilliantly emphasised the fact of how incredibly comfortable he is with the ball at his feet.
The closing stages of the fixture forced Allan to move into a traditional central midfield role, with Emmanuel Badu playing in his position after the Nigerian had initially replaced Giampiero Pinzi. This was no problem, for Allan is right at home in this role, as he shielded his defense masterfully to help guide his side to a 3-2 victory.
“Allan is an important player as his quality and versatility are rare qualities in football,” said his former Vasco manager Cristovao Borges. And these comments are spot on, in terms of what he can do on a football field, he really is amazing.
On top of leading the league in tackles, Allan is also 11th in successful dribbles and a remarkable 10th in the highest rated players in Italy (averaging 7.44 as per WhoScored).
Andrea Stramaccioni’s glowing praise following Udinese’s recent 0-0 draw versus Juventus shows just how highly regarded he is by him. “I want to underline the excellent performance of Allan – who I feel is one of the best midfielders in Europe behind Pogba,” he said.
It certainly seems a long time ago that Allan won the FIFA U-20 World Cup with Brazil back in 2011, where his teammates included the likes of Oscar, Willian, Casemiro, Juan Jesus, Philippe Coutinho, Danilo, Alex Sandro and current Udinese colleague Gabriel Silva. While many of these men have gone on to represent the full national team, it seems ridiculous that Allan continually gets overlooked.
Surely his time will come, though, but for now he’ll keep plugging away at Udinese, where come season’s end a move away appears inevitable (with Napoli the most likely destination), and with that should come a brighter spotlight.
Complete midfielders like Allan are rare commodities in the modern game, and it’s disappointing that he doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves.
There’s no denying his obvious talent on both sides of the ball, and it’s been fantastic to watch him develop into one of the finest midfielders in Europe at Udinese. But it’s now time for Allan to make the step up to a bigger club, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll finally have his magnificent talents more universally appreciated.