Four years ago, I have written an in depth article for the football website, Footy Analyst on the special relationship between reigning Malaysia champions, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Argentine football.

Football from the country which has just won the World Cup in Qatar 2022, has always had an interesting presence in the Southern Tigers setup since 2013, whether its players or coaches.

It’s special bond that has paid dividend for the Southern Tigers in not only cementing themselves as the undisputed kings of Malaysian football but equally important in pushing the club further on the continental stage, in the AFC Champions League.

On the domestic front in 2023, the club has just completed a back to back QUADRUPLE by sweeping all honours available in Malaysia.

Much of it thanks to the goal scoring exploit of Fernando Forestieri, the creative anchor of Leandro Velázquez and the tactical exploits of both gaffer Esteban Solari and his assistant Pablo Ricchetti.

Not forgetting, in keeping the team in top shape and making sure every player maintains their physical capacities, the club has brought in Rodrigo Barrios; who happens to be part of Lionel Scaloni’s coaching staff during the World Cup in Qatar.

It’s no surprise that JDT is already plotting for their conquest to maintain their domestic dominance and try to push further in Asia next year. To do just that, they have already added another new signing.

And this new signing comes from the same land for which they have already tried, tested and have rarely failed them, Argentina.

Introducing Jalil Elías, who has spent the last years with San Lorenzo. To help us understand JDT’s newest signing, I have reached out to Will Dalton who is based in London and also passionate supporter of Los Cuervos.

Hope you enjoy this interview.

Let’s start by introducing yourself, sharing a bit of your background and what is that you do with regard to your involvement in football.

I’m Will Dalton, a former journalist and supporter of San Lorenzo. I’m from London but have lived in Buenos Aires in the past, which is how the San Lorenzo connection started.

How did your love affair with San Lorenzo begin?

San Lorenzo caught my attention because of the similar backstory it shares with my beloved hometown club, Charlton Athletic. Both clubs were torn away from their stadiums and neighbourhoods in controversial circumstances, but fierce campaigns from supporters have attempted to bring them home. Charlton succeeded in 1992, but San Lorenzo’s struggle to return to the barrio of Boedo goes on, despite some progress over the last decade. After getting to know San Lorenzo’s story, I started attending games when I moved to Buenos Aires in 2014 and I completely fell in love with everything about the club, particularly the creativity and passion of the support.

What has been your most fond memory about them?

Winning the Copa Libertadores in 2014 was the most important moment in the club’s history, but I was in London at the time and couldn’t attend the final. So travelling up to Cordoba for the Supercopa Final in 2016 and beating Boca Juniors 4-0 is probably my fondest memory as a fan. Joining more than 10,000 cuervos in Morocco for the Club World Cup in 2014 was pretty special too.

From San Lorenzo’s perspective, how important has Jalil Elias been for them this year and with his impending exit, how much of a loss is this going to be for them?

After a slow start, he’s grown to become one of our most important players. He’s easily our most influential midfielder and with no obvious replacement it’s going to be a huge loss for an already thin squad.

Based on his player profile, how best would you describe a player like Jalil Elías?

He’s quite a modern midfielder, in the sense that he is mobile, presses and tackles well, but is comfortable with the ball at his feet too. He usually operates as a holding midfielder for San Lorenzo, but is capable of going forward and bursting into the box as a ‘number 8’ too.

In terms of his playing style, which famous Argentinian footballer do you think resembles Jalil Elías?

This is a tricky question and nobody obvious springs to mind. I guess he’s a cross between Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul – but a very poor man’s version of both! He has some of Enzo’s mobility and technique, but also the ability to anchor a midfield like De Paul.

What sort of quality can Jalil Elías bring to his team?

He’s neat, tidy and feisty – a solid all-rounder in the middle. He doesn’t spray 40 yard passes around or truly dominate a midfield, but he looks after the ball well, covers a lot of ground and is a good tackler. He never hides either. Even when the chips are down, he’ll keep showing to pick up the ball from the centre backs and try to drive the team forward.

He’s also versatile. As well as his ability to play as a holding midfielder and an 8, he sometimes fills in at right wing-back for San Lorenzo – a role he plays pretty well because of his acceleration and mobility.

Is there any weakness in his game?

As a defensive midfielder, he lacks the physical presence and ability to control a game which you’d need to reach a higher level. He has stood out for San Lorenzo, but that’s partly because the squad is so low on quality.

When it comes to tactics, what sort of role do you think is best for a player like Jalil Elías?

Although he usually operates as a holding midfielder, I think he would be better as an 8 in a three-man midfield. He would complement defensive and attacking midfield partners well and probably be effective in a team that likes to press.

In all the previous clubs that Jalil Elías has played for, how have the fans treated him? Is he someone would you call a fan favourite?

To be honest I’m not sure, but I imagine he is popular at Newell’s Old Boys where he started his career, as I believe he’s a fan and has a Newell’s tattoo – something that annoyed San Lorenzo fans in the early days when he wasn’t performing so well.

For a player who has not played outside of Argentina, do you foresee adaptability will be a big challenge for Jalil Elías?

He would probably struggle to make an impact in European football, but he should be fine adapting to things in Malaysia.

We would like to wish our heartfelt gratitude to Will for taking his time to talk to us. You can reach out to him on X at Cuervo Inglés.

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