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In Focus: How Brereton Diaz became a red-hot Chile star
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Matthew Hill
Ben Brereton Diaz is joint-top scorer in the Championship this term with 10 goals in 11 games
Ben Brereton Diaz is joint-top scorer in the Championship this term with 10 goals in 11 games

When Adam Armstrong left Blackburn for Southampton, many anticipated that goals could be an issue for the Lancashire club this term — but Ben Brereton Diaz clearly did not read the script.

The versatile attacker, who shot to fame when accepting an unlikely call-up into Chile’s Copa America squad this summer, had never previously been known for his scoring touch.

Yet 10 strikes in just 11 Championship games has led to national (and international) acclaim, as well as speculation over what the future holds for the 22-year-old.

As Brereton Diaz prepares to represent his adopted nation once again this week, is this fine form merely a flash in the pan or is his remarkable rise to stardom set to continue?

Early years

Having had spells in the academies of both Manchester United and Stoke, Brereton spent his breakthrough years with 1980 European champions Nottingham Forest.

After two seasons of scoring for fun at academy level, he was swiftly introduced into the first-team picture at the City Ground and handed his debut in a January 2017 loss to Leeds by interim boss Gary Brazil.

In the 18 months that followed, Brereton Diaz established himself as a Forest regular with 53 Championship appearances and was named the EFL’s Championship Apprentice of the Year.

Blackburn came calling in the summer of 2018, taking the forward on loan initially before shelling out £7million in January 2019 to make the deal permanent.

But it is fair to say things have taken a while to click at Ewood Park, with only two goals and two assists arriving across his first two campaigns.

Last season was a marked improvement with seven strikes and five assists but 2021-22’s early weeks have propelled him into an entirely new stratosphere.

Goals, goals, goals

Ben Brereton Diaz (left) has been a constant thorn in the side of Championship defences for Blackburn in 2021-22
Ben Brereton Diaz (left) has been a constant thorn in the side of Championship defences for Blackburn in 2021-22

Brereton Diaz’s ability has been crystal clear since his initial breakthrough, but his recent scoring exploits are a new string to his bow.

Prior to the 2021-22 campaign, he had only netted 16 times in 134 Championship appearances for Forest and Rovers, with his regular wide berth seeing an onus put more on industrious running and hard work rather than direct creative output.

However, losing prolific forward Armstrong this summer has forced Tony Mowbray to shift his style of play and find alternative routes to goal, with Diaz stepping up spectacularly.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about his 10 goals so far has been the variety, with five coming via his trusted right foot, three calmy converted penalties, a cool left-footed volley against Blackpool and an excellent glancing header against Millwall.

The run of form has even caught the man himself off guard.

Speaking about his rise last month, Brereton Diaz said: "If you'd have told me this 12 months ago, I'd have said you were crazy."

A life-changing call-up

It is not exactly difficult to pinpoint the moment that things started to look up for the Stoke-born star — when Chile came calling.

Qualifying to star for the South American nation through his mother, Brereton Diaz accepted a surprise call-up at the end of last season and was starring for La Roja at the Copa America before he knew it.

He netted the only goal in their 1-0 win over Bolivia and with it secured hero-like status among a nation three times smaller than the United Kingdom but just as passionate about the beautiful game.

Now the star of the country’s Pepsi advert and playing regularly alongside the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Brereton Diaz is under no illusions how much the experiences have aided his development.

He explained: "The experiences I have had have been amazing, like doing those commercials, playing with big stars.

"I reckon I’ve got a bit of South American edge in my game now and that’s showing in the way I’m getting goals — I’m harder and more physical now and more confident."

Not the finished article

Tony Mowbray believs Ben Brereton Diaz still has a lot of developing to do
Tony Mowbray believs Ben Brereton Diaz still has a lot of developing to do

While the hitman is riding the crest of a wave, his experienced club boss is keen to keep his feet on the ground.

Mowbray was reserved when discussing his young star’s performance in their recent 2-1 loss at Blackpool, where Brereton Diaz moved into double figures for the campaign.

The Rovers boss said: "Let’s be honest, he wasn’t very good in the first-half. So let’s not get carried away with that.

"Ben is still a young player who’s got lots to learn, lots to grow and he’s a fantastic human being with a growth mindset. He will learn and grow and hopefully the goals keep coming for him.

"Let’s hope he has a good time with Chile, let’s hope he comes back fit and continues to score more goals for us."

With 40 years of experience in the game under his belt and a fine reputation for developing young talent, the Rovers boss looks like the perfect man to oversee this crucial part of Brereton Diaz’s fledgling career.

Premier League awaits?

While having one excited eye on his future is inevitable, Brereton Diaz has several more immediate targets that will require his full attention.

First things first, Chile are getting towards the last-chance saloon with their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign and desperately need points from upcoming clashes with Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela.

Once those clashes have been negotiated, it will be a case of shifting focus back onto Blackburn’s promising Championship campaign and trying to build on what has been a promising start.

As well as helping Rovers towards an unlikely play-off push, supporters will hope that Brereton Diaz can continue his fine form in front of goal — with one small section of the club’s fans quite literally more invested than others.

A handful of Rovers fanatics are starting to get a little hot under the collar after placing small pre-season wagers on Brereton Diaz to hit 20 Championship goals in 2021-22 at the jaw-dropping odds of 1,000/1.

With at least one of those fans set to net a £20,000 return from a £20 bet, 10 more goals for the marksman would give them one of life’s great feel-good stories.

Luckily for them, their fate lies with a man who seems to only deal in Hollywood scripts.


BlackburnChileBen Brereton
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