Palermo’s Franco Vazquez is a bit of a late bloomer. The Argentina-born midfielder was loaned out to La Liga outfit Rayo Vallecano within his first year in Italy (2012). During his 2012-13 campaign in Spain, Vazquez failed to impress and returned to Palermo after Rayo rejected the chance to sign the player on a permanent contract. After being left out of the squad for the first half of the 2013-14 season, the creative midfielder was finally utilized by the then Serie B club in January of 2014.
Following Palermo’s promotion to the top tier of Italian soccer, Vazquez’s stock skyrocketed at the age of 25. Throughout the 2014-15 season, the attacking midfielder netted 10 goals and added 10 assists during Serie A play. In fact, Vazquez was the highest-rated player in the league according to whoscored.com, and was one of only three players to reach double-digit tallies in both goals and assists in Serie A as well. The outstanding play of the midfielder earned him his first international call-up by Italy (Vazquez is eligible to play for Gli Azzurri due to his Italian-born mother).
Vazquez’s breakout campaign coincided with fellow teammate Paulo Dybala’s explosion onto the scene. Dybala, also born in Argentina, was also one of the three Serie A players to record double-digit numbers in goals and assist during the 2014-15. Dybala’s fantastic season was rewarded with a big-money move to Juventus in the summer transfer period. With the 21-year-old switching to Juve, many assumed Vazquez would miss his battery mate and subsequently regress heading into the 2015-16 season. This, however, is not the case.
Although the Sicilian club have only played eight league matches so far this campaign, Vazquez’s statistics are actually an improvement over last year’s. Through eight matches, the 26-year-old has scored one goal and racked up four assists. While those numbers may not exactly jump off of the page, a further look into the statistics prove that Vazquez might be on his way to a better season that he had during his breakout 2014-15 campaign.
Despite missing Dybala, the four assists for Vazquez are currently tops among Serie A players. The biggest difference so far this season for Vazquez is that his four league assists have gone to four different goalscorers, whereas 40% of his assists from a year ago were eventually scored by Dybala.
With Vazquez continuing to grow as a player, Palermo fans are hoping that the Argentinian stays in Sicily for the foreseeable future. He did sign a new four-year contract back in January; however, as we all know, that does not necessarily guarantee that the budding star will remain with Palermo for the duration of the contract. If the Italian club does not reach a European competition soon, Vazquez could look to jump ship and he would be a wonderful addition to a Champions League/Europa League level club.