Last season, Bologna handed Nicolas Dominguez the captain’s armband.
Partly because of his character and partly because of the scale of his work and the industry he set in the heart of the field.
But it was also attractively offensive; The Serie A club have tried to convince president Claudio Fenucci to put pen to paper on a new contract that would see them retain a player he described as a “pivot”.
With just one year left to complete the midfielder’s deal, Bologna knew they were in a vulnerable position for the Argentina international.
Bologna have also been linked with a number of clubs around Europe, including AC Milan, Fenerbahce and Jose Mourinho’s Roma, as they try to agree a new contract with the 25-year-old.
“He said in an interview that he is happy at Bologna and this will allow us to open the renewal, although his desire to stay may be linked to possible offers,” Fenucci said in pre-season. “For us, he is a pillar and we will try to protect him.”
In the end, it was Nottingham Forest – including Switzerland international Remo Friuler in a package worth £8m ($9.75m) – that sealed the deal for Dominguez on deadline day as Bologna decided. To earn money while the player still holds some value.
“Dominguez is a fantastic kid. I’m happy[for him]because he wants to go and try another situation,” said the Italian club’s head coach Thiago Motta. I wish him all the best.”
Midfielder Ibrahim Sangare’s £30million signing from PSV and the signing of former star player Callum Hudson-Odoi have caught the attention of Forest fans amid seven new arrivals on deadline day of the window. But Dominguez’s name has been on the radar since we saw him make his impressive debut in a challenging away game at Manchester City last weekend.
With City down to 11 men in the first half, Dominguez was the standout player for the Forest side. After the hosts were reduced to 10 men in the first minute of the second half, Rodri was shown a red card, Dominguez seems to have risen another level. Although, on one hand at least, he was disappointed with his delivery.
“I have to say that Rodri has been someone I’ve admired for a few years now, so I made sure to show him my admiration for him so that I could play with him very closely,” Dominguez said. “It’s a shame he didn’t see the 90 minutes.”
Dun had chased Sangare for over a year. He was always their main target; The signatory is believed to provide a statement of club hierarchy. But in Dominguez, Forrest believes they have signed another midfielder capable of making a big impact.
This is as much about his ability as his attitude.
When asked what Forest fans expect him to bring to the table, it says a lot about Dominguez, his first response is the observation that players shouldn’t discuss themselves, not assess their strengths but put on a show. He can let others make up their own minds.
“Players don’t like to talk too much about themselves… but Forest fans can expect someone who will give everything for the shirt,” Dominguez said. “They use the word ‘sacrifice’ in Spanish, which means to sacrifice yourself for the team. It’s a big, big effort. That would be my best quality: hard work.
During my time in Italy, my tactical and defensive game has improved a lot. I learned a lot there.
Given Dominguez’s grounding, it’s no surprise that he’s the character. In Buenos Aires – where he was born and raised – he joined Velez Saarfield Academy at the age of seven. After 11 years there, he made his first team breakthrough.
The head coach at the time was Gabriel Heinze, a former Manchester United and Real Madrid defender, a trait he himself aspired to. In the year He coached Vélez between 2017 and 2020 and his aggressive approach to Atlanta United’s final weeks in MLS can be summed up by his frustration with his players’ performances. It’s off, but it limits their water intake during training.
Dominguez says Heinz – now head coach at Newell’s Old Boys, where he began and ended his playing career – was a huge positive for him.
“It’s had a lot of impact on me – tactically and to some extent changing my style of play with the strength I need for the game, keeping the ball and passing in the triangle,” Dominguez said. “It also influenced a lot of my general concepts; my idea of the game.
“I had a chat with him (before I moved to England). He said he likes English football and suits my style.
It’s not hard to see how Heinz comes to that point of view. Dominguez can play as a deep-lying midfielder or as an orthodox central midfielder. It would be easy to pigeonhole him as a defensive player when you look at his stats, but he is more than that.
according to FBref.com, Dominguez averaged 1.88 tackles per game last year. His 2.94 tackles per game put him in the 11th percentile. He averages 1.45 dribblers per game and is a player who likes to break down opposition attacks.
But when he wins the ball back, his use is brilliant. He averaged 0.68 shots per game, ranking in the third percentile. 25.84 completions per game gives him a respectable percentage of 83.
“The energy has the characteristics of football. He is someone who likes to be involved whether he is coaching or playing. He has good character for a middle class player,” said Forest head coach Steve Cooper. He’s only played one game but you see positives in training.
“He’s a hard-working football player, very competitive. The other middle class players are now clashing with each other in training. It’s great to see. Nico is a hard worker, he takes the information on board and we want to give him every opportunity to deliver.
Like many of the 13 signings of the summer, it was a conversation with Cooper that led Dominguez to sign for Dunn and join the league he watched as a kid.
“The manager explained the plans and the whole project to me. That’s what attracted me to start a new chapter,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez has 11 international caps and was a member of the Argentina team that won the Copa America in 2021. Unsurprisingly, he said playing with Lionel Messi was one of the high points of his life.
“There’s not a day that goes by that doesn’t surprise you,” Dominguez said. “The story that will stay with me forever was the team speech at the Copa America final against Brazil.
“He told us that we went through a lot during the Covid season and now we have the chance to support the Argentines who have gone through a lot. Because we went a long time without losing and he captured it for us. It was a very important and special moment. He had a weight on the backs of the players. That hope was always there. The Spaniards had ‘the bag on the back.’ ‘ they say, but this has been lifted from us.
Dominguez He was not part of the squad that won the World Cup in 2022, seeing his chances blighted by injury.
I was able to train and play at the start of the season in Italy. December came too soon. Being self-critical and honest with myself, I wasn’t ready to take on something as challenging as the World Cup,” he said.
Dominguez quickly settled in Nottingham. The climate in Bologna – where he has played 78 games and 34 substitutes in all competitions in the last four years and scored five goals – is hot in the summer but also has cold winters.
Like many of his countrymen, Dominguez has a borderline obsession with barbecue. He’s brought his specialty grill from Italy to his new home in Nottingham and brought in an Argentinian butcher to provide a taste of home.
But Dominguez insists he already feels at home and if he can settle quickly on the pitch, Bologna’s loss will be Forest’s gain.
(Top photo: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)