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Will Julián Fernández fill the void left by Gabi Pereira?

It's a big ask for a 19-year-old, but NYCFC know how to develop a player.

Courtesy Julián Fernández
3 things about Julián Fernández:
  • Turned 19 on January 4, 2023
  • Scored two goals in the 2022 Copa Libertadores
  • His level of play improved dramatically in 2023

With the sudden departure of Brazilian winger Gabriel Pereira to Qatari-side Al Raayan, New York City Football Club found themselves in desperate need of a new wide man to bolster an attack that sputtered for most of the season. That replacement comes in the form of Argentine winger Julián Fernández, from Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield in the Argentine Primera Division.

At 19 years old, Fernández has appeared in 63 matches across two seasons for the Buenos Aires outfit, making 23 starts in the league and cup competitions. The left-footed forward operates predominantly as a right winger, but can also put in a shift on the left side of a front three as well. 

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Raw attacking potential

In two seasons with El Fortin, Fernández contributed six goals and three assists. While nine-goal contributions in 63 appearances may seem lackluster, it’s the teenager’s underlying numbers that attract attention. 

In 2022, while averaging just 46 minutes per game, Fernandez averaged 0.9 accurate crosses and 0.5 long balls per game in the league. His two assists during the 2022 campaign show a focus on build-up play while he matured into playing a more attacking role. Even though the Argentine managed zero goals in the league, Fernández notched two goals in seven appearances in the 2022 Copa Libertadores and one goal in the Copa de la Liga Professional. 

Fernández matured into a more attacking winger in 2023, emphasized by his improvement to three goals in 20 league matches, while only averaging 33 minutes per match. The winger also improved his one-on-one ability, averaging 1.3 successful dribbles in 2023, vs just 0.8 in 2022. His off-the-ball movement and ability to make well-timed darting runs into the box makes for a tantalizing prospect when picturing the Argentine in NYCFC’s fast-paced, get-in-behind system of attack.

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Coaching will be key

Though the winger is relatively unproven, the potential the Argentine possesses is what makes this deal enticing for NYCFC. Given his age and the level of play in the Primera Division, Fernández’s underlying statistics show the makings of a versatile winger with the potential to become successful in the MLS, with the proper coaching.

NYCFC has taken a gamble on raw talent before. Take Pereira, a versatile winger from the Brasileiro Serie A with limited first-team experience and an underwhelming end product. Following the switch to the Big Apple, and working with the club’s coaching staff, Gabi was able to make the position his own and become the lynchpin of NYCFC’s attack.

Another example is Taty Castellanos, a promising if inconsistent Argentine winger who started his career in Chile and Uruguay before finding a home at NYCFC — and becoming one of the most lethal goal-scorers in MLS history.

So, yes, it can be done. 

Transfer Tracker: 2023 NYCFC summer transfer window edition