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Transfer Profile: Elias Aguilar

Jeju United opened their winter transfer window account with the signing of Costa Rican international Elias Aguilar from Incheon United to bolster a midfield which at times lacked creativity last season.  The hope is that he will be the missing link to recharge a team which was among the league's best in the goal-scoring department in 2016 and 2017.  KLU spoke with Luke Evans to learn more about one of the K League's most exciting players of the last campaign.
(Image courtesy of www.jeju-utd.com)

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder was a key cog in Incheon United's offensive machine last season, notching three goals and ten assists, the latter good for second in the league, earning him a spot in the K League Best XI at the end of the season.  Prior to his loan move to the K League, he spent the majority of his career at CS Herediano in his homeland, where he was a four-time champion and made five appearances in the CONCACAF Champions League.  He has also been capped fourteen times for his country, the most recent coming against Peru last November.

Incheon United supporter Luke Evans provides us with more insight into what he meant to Incheon in their quest to avoid the drop last season.

How was Elias Aguilar viewed at Incheon? League wide?

Elias Aguilar played 31 times for Incheon last year, scoring three goals and getting 10 assists.  In addition, he seemed to be involved in any dangerous chances Incheon created.  He’s strong on the ball, remains calm and composed under pressure, and can hit a very good free kick.  Despite playing for a team who are often at the wrong end of the table, he brought a new dynamism to the midfield, and a creativity that had been lacking for quite a while.  He’s an intelligent player who links well with others and will always be a threat with the ball at his feet.  Aguilar particularly linked well with Moon Seon-min and Stefan Mugosa, finding them in space time and again.

Looking back, it took Aguilar a few games to settle, but once he had found his feet, he was one of Incheon’s most important players.  His passing ability and vision is probably among the best in the league – and in a better team, he might have been much more highly regarded.  At the end of the season, there were rumours of Jeonbuk being interested in him, which came as no surprise to anyone who’d seen Aguilar play over the course of the season.  Ultimately, Jeonbuk signed other targets, and he has joined Jeju. He’s going to be an excellent player for them and I expect him to beat his three and ten tally next year.

What are the strongest aspects of his game?

Aguilar doesn’t panic when surrounded by players, and is able to break free, pick a pass and switch the play effortlessly.  There were several occasions last year when he was closed down by two or three members of the opposition, but was able to make enough room to move the ball to teammates or find someone in blue to break free.  It’s something you don’t often see at Incheon, and perhaps in the K-League generally; Aguilar is never rushed on the ball and always looks to find space and create an attack with his passing.

Does he have any weaknesses?

The only criticism people at Incheon had was that Aguilar was perhaps a little slow. When tracking back, or trying to get to a man to tackle, he wasn’t as mobile as other central midfielders.  He seemed to get better as the year went on, so it could have been due to fatigue or injury at the beginning of the season.

Reason for leaving?

Aguilar was only ever on loan, and honestly, he deserves to be playing for a team at the other end of the table and pushing for continental football.  It didn’t come as a surprise when Incheon said goodbye.  Like Connor Chapman 12 months ago, he’ll be on to bigger and better things.

Where do you think he would be best utilized with Jeju?

Aguilar will be best used driving the midfield forward and linking with strikers and wingers.  Often times at Incheon, his brain and feet would be too quick for others, which meant that his passes wouldn’t quite come off – mostly due to him seeing the game and space better than the players around him.  With a year’s experience in K-League under his belt, I don’t imagine that’ll be as much of a problem this year.

What should K League fans expect from him?

I’m sure Aguilar will be disappointed if he doesn’t get more goals next season, and perhaps hitting double figures with assists again.  Look out for good link up play and an excellent range of passing.

Best moment with Incheon?

After the split, when Incheon were playing well, he was even more influential and important than previously.  Aguilar works well in a confident and exciting team, and does well at the basics that sometimes get overlooked. His free-kicks always peaked the fans’ excitement, and the one against Suwon in April – that he sent under the wall - was probably his best.

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