Talents not reaching their full potential after a falling-out with someone from the club’s hierarchy is nothing new in Argentina. When the same happened between River Plate and their proud jewel Benjamin Rollheiser, many thought he had become the latest in the line. Estudiantes signed him on a free in the summer of 2022 and there began his career revival which has now led him to Portugal.
Standing at 5’7″, Benjamin also, like others of similar profile, uses his low center of gravity to maximize his attacking skill set. Despite often being deployed as a right winger, he is not the kind of player who roams around next to the sideline to keep width. With the ball at his feet, he liked to glide to the center and function at the heart of Estudiantes’ attack last year.
Manager Eduardo Dominguez, who had brought out the best in many players before him, saw Benjamin’s potential and bet on it. Rollheiser generated 106 shot-creating actions in the league last year, which is also the fifth-highest number during the same period. He also completed 138 dribbles in the 2023 calendar year and ranked seventh for most progressive carries (86) in the league.
Benfica have added two of the brightest young talents in South America to their squad with Gianluca Prestianni (17) & Marcos Leonardo (20) joining for a combined €29m.@23Pankovski on Leonardo: https://t.co/wIzSMY6Xkq@ConnorHolden00 on Prestianni: https://t.co/79grMoi0Xm pic.twitter.com/AAie8mfUsU
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) January 7, 2024
Rollheiser always scans what is happening around him before he receives the ball. He arrives at the right position, often in the second third, and orients his body in the perfect manner to receive the ball. Opponents relentlessly try to shut him down forcing 1v2 or 1v3 scenarios, but slipping out of tight spaces is one of his strongest characteristics. Benjamin is rarely hasty in possession.
The 23-year-old is also quite good at picking the right pass. Having 80% pass completion in the league cup while operating as the creative force of the team is a testament to this. Equally comfortable with crosses and through balls, his passing range would help Benfica and their style of play greatly. A player who excels at link-up plays, he can be a menace to deal with at the right half-space.
His shooting catalog is also quite impressive. He has a good eye for the back of the net and some of his goals in 2023 were technically brilliant. He took 73 shots in the last league campaign (fourth most) with 36% of them being on target. As impressive as 12 goals and five assists from his short spell with Estudiantes are, Rollheiser’s goal-scoring consistency remains questionable.
Rollheiser’s offensive output and general involvement in the game did take a hit in the second half of the season, especially during the league cup. His decisions in the final third were not up to the mark and that affected the team. However, he had some good displays against Central Cordoba, Defensa y Justicia, Gimnasia and San Lorenzo.
Benfica are champions of Portugal for the first time in four years, and with the additions of Ángel di María and Orkun Kökçü, they could be on track to repeat their league title and make another deep run in Europe.
Today, we’re taking a look at Benfica’s individual standouts:
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) July 22, 2023
The ex-River Plate starlet also provided the assist that equalized the match vs Boca Juniors in the Copa Argentina semi-final, the tournament which Estudiantes would go on to win and subsequently qualify for Libertadores this year.
Even though he is not the fastest, Benjamin’s work rate off the ball is laudable. Benfica is one the most intense high-pressing sides in Portugal with a PPDA of 7.15, and they could really use a player like him in the title race. There is room for improvement when it comes to his defensive awareness, and that is something Roger Schmidt can fix over the course of time.
Despite his technical abilities, Rollheiser is not an ambipedal. But having a weak right foot does not detract from his game. Opponents always expect him to move or glide to the left when he receives or carries the ball, but he finds a way around it through exquisite body feints, some trickery and with a near-perfect awareness of releasing the ball at the right moment. It is in times like this we see the upper body strength he possesses.
A move to Portugal before making a jump to one of the top five leagues has always helped Argentine talents to further strengthen their skills, Enzo Fernandez being the most recent example. Playing alongside compatriots Nicolas Otamendi, Angel Di Maria and Gianluca Prestianni will definitely help Rollheiser grow and to find his feet. Arriving on loan with a mandatory purchase option, Rollheiser has all the talent in the world to make the reported €9.5 million that Benfica paid for him look like a bargain in the near future.
By: Neeraj Sathya / @totoscrib
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Luis Robayo – AFP