Juan Carlos Paredes is not a name most Watford fans will have heard of before this summer. Despite signing a five-year contract with the club two weeks ago, in a deal that brought him from South America to Hertfordshire via Granada, the man they call ‘La Hormiga’ (more on that later) is yet to turn out in a Watford shirt. So, what do we actually know about him?
The Ecuadorian right back is an unknown in England, and when our interest in him became public knowledge some days before the World Cup in Brazil, I wasn’t sure where to start. A 27-year-old full international who has only ever played club football in his home nation.
A defender with no experience outside of his own country’s leagues was linked with a move to Vicarage Road. ‘A number of clubs across Europe are thought to be tracking Paredes, but Watford are hoping to lure him to England,’ said the article I read.
One word came to mind immediately: Belkalem. Would we have another player on our hands that came with promise but did not adapt quickly enough to make it to the first team more than a handful of times? Or would this story end differently?
Almost two months after reading that first report of Watford’s interest, with Paredes’ permanent move now has been confirmed by the club, most supporters are still none the wiser about what type of player Paredes is.
If you watched Ecuador at the World Cup you may have some idea of what Paredes is like on the pitch. His pace and determination was evident in their three group games, especially against France in their final game, where right midfielder Antonio Valencia was sent off in the 50th minute.
This left Paredes having to cope with far more from a strong French side that ended up topping the group. Ecuador keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw will have felt like an achievement despite the fact that this meant that the South American team did not progress.
Some Hornets fans may have also watched England’s friendly against Ecuador in Miami prior to the World Cup. Paredes played in this match as well, and more than held his own against Roy Hodgson’s men.
In order to understand a player, however, more than just a handful of international appearances need scrutiny. That much should be obvious to those who saw a different Essaïd Belkalem to the one we knew at Watford turn out and win man of the match against Germany a few weeks ago.
With this in mind, Vital Watford recently spoke to Juan Fernando Guerrero (@juanfguerrero), an Ecuadorian football journalist who writes for Ecuagol. Juan reports on Ecuadorian football, and as such is in a good position to comment on Paredes as a player.
I started by asking Juan about Paredes’ most obvious attribute: his pace.
‘Paredes is a very quick player and is in great physical condition. This is his main asset.’
So far, so obvious. But what about his strengths away from his fitness and pace?
‘He is a classic right back. He likes to go on the attack, he gets into the opposition’s area, but he is also very good at marking and is tactically disciplined,’ Juan told me.
I asked about whether Paredes has the ability to play in other positions, as it has been suggested by some Watford fans that he can play across the back line and further up the pitch.
‘He could be played as right midfielder, but not in any other defensive positions.
‘At Barcelona Sporting Club, he was always played as a right back in every game.
‘Towards the start of his time at Barcelona, he was a very important player, but there was a time that he was a lower level player and was often a substitute.
‘In recent months however ahead of the World Cup he has raised his game and showed this in the tournament.’
In Ecuadorian football, Barcelona are well-regarded and are consistently one of the top clubs in the country. Although Paredes had a period of time where he was out of the first team picture, he has by and large remained a starter at his most recent club.
I explained to Juan that the Championship was a league where players must put in a lot of effort for the full duration of each game, and said that games are contested right to the last minute.
It could be said that Marco Davide Faraoni, who Paredes is expected to replace at Watford, showed a lack of ability to fully adapt to the division in this way despite his clear talent. This can also be said of many other players who have come to Watford from overseas.
I asked whether Paredes would have the right temperament and physicality to make it in such a demanding league. Juan told me, ‘[Paredes] is a quiet player on the pitch. He doesn’t have a bad temper but he does always leave everything on the field.
‘Without a doubt Paredes will be the perfect replacement for Marco Davide Faraoni. As I said, ‘La Hormiga’ runs hard back and forth, is very fast and has a great rhythm [about his game].’
Asked about any obvious weaknesses, I was told that perhaps Paredes has a tendency to snap at the ball rather than take his time.
‘What he does need to improve upon is his ability to centre the ball and be calm when finishing the move when he is attacking the opponent’s line of defence,’ Juan said.
Finally, I had to ask about the nickname. ‘La Hormiga’ means ‘The Ant’ in Spanish, and I wanted to know if there was a story behind the name. It turns out Juan’s and Paredes himself’s guess is as good as anybody’s.
‘He says that he doesn’t know why he has the nickname, but he has had it since being in school.
‘He says that perhaps it’s got something to do with him being very small and because he ran a lot.
‘He leaves everything on the field and works hard, and working hard is a main feature of ants!’
Fair enough then!
By the sounds of it, we have a player that puts in a lot of effort on the pitch, and isn’t afraid to use his pace to attack down the wing. As long as he adapts to the rigours of Championship football – the mythical rainy Tuesday nights in Lancashire and so on – I’m confident we have a very good player on our hands.
As reported by the Watford Observer, Paredes has not yet played a part in any of the Hornets’ pre-season friendlies due to the club awaiting international clearance for his transfer from Barcelona SC (via Granada).
It is still unknown whether the full back will be eligible for Saturday’s final pre-season friendly, where the Hornets take on fellow Pozzo-owned club Udinese.
For the forthcoming season, Juan Carlos Paredes will wear the number 14 shirt.
I would like to thank Juan Fernando Guerrero for his kindness in giving us his time and expertise, and Allan Gardner for his translation skills, which are far better than mine.