Borussia Dortmund once cost a lot of money to Leonardo Balerdi, but the central defender could not prevail at BVB. The 22-year-old has been playing on loan for Olympique Marseille since the summer. Balerdi had an eventful time in France.
From a loan deal, a football club usually hopes that the temporarily dropped player will often be used by the receiving club and thereby gain further experience. Leonardo Balerdi has done this pretty well so far, at least with experience.
The 2020/21 season has had a lot in store for Olympique Marseille, this highly emotional club from the French port city. Borussia Dortmund loaned center-back Balerdi there last summer. In January 2019, the 22-year-old Argentinian moved from Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires to BVB for a whopping 15.5 million euros. In Dortmund, Balerdi received a contract dated until 2024, but hardly any playing time.
Since then, both Marseille and Balerdi have somehow muddled through. At first Andre Villas-Boas was full of praise: “He has all the qualities. He’s powerful, he’s fast and he’s technically good. I’ve known him since his time at Boca Juniors. He was on our list last year “, said the coach after the loan deal was completed.
But the time together started badly. Balerdi was on the field for 90 minutes on matchday two against Brest, but had to play as a left-back in the unfamiliar position as a left-back two weeks later against Saint-Etienne. There he could not bring his strengths in duels and on the ball, Balerdi acted rather error-prone and poor concentration.
BVB loan from Leonardo Balerdi: Low point against Porto
The next five competitive games he sat on the bench, only to then call up two of his long-time best performances – as a central defender: In October Balerdi scored his only goal for Marseille on matchday 8 in Lorient, it was also the goal of the day. Shortly afterwards in Strasbourg there was no way around him in the direct duels, which was sweetened a few days later by a renewed appointment to the Argentine national team.
However, the Balerdi did not help to achieve constancy, in fact it reached its temporary low at the end of November on a day that was also historic for OM. In the defeat against Porto in the Champions League, he owed both goals, Balerdi saw the yellow-red card before the penalty goal to 2-0. It was Marseille’s 13th CL defeat in a row, something no other team had managed before.
Villas-Boas was tough on his team: “To be shit in the Champions League, you first have to qualify for the Champions League. We did that and we are shit.”
For Balerdi, the train to the regular place had left once, between mid-December and mid-January he had to watch six competitive games in a row. “Unfortunately, the game against Porto was the problem for Leo. We gave him a chance in an important game. He missed it because he made a serious mistake and paid dearly for it,” said Villas-Boas at the time.
Even if the coach emphasized several times that Balerdi would one day become one of the best central defenders in the world, his rivals Alvaro Gonzalez and Duje Caleta-Car were simply more reliable. Although he repeatedly indicated his potential, it became obvious that Balerdi had to struggle as soon as the level rose.