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Despite having the squad with the highest average age at the World Cup, Argentina is still churning out plenty of exciting young players. Tom Robinson has a look at who the 10 Best Young Argentinian prospects are.
The economic reality for most clubs means that almost as soon as a star is born they are whisked off abroad, resulting in a domestic scene in which youngsters are regularly given an early taste of first team football.
Such is the turnaround from unknown to wonderkid that many players who would have appeared on the list below last year have already been snapped up by European clubs. Prospects such as Angel Correa, Rodrigo de Paul, Geronimo Rulli, Luciano Vietto, Bruno Zuculini, Jonathan Silva and Hector Villalba are all already on the move this summer and as such don’t feature, while those starlets already in Europe like Lucas Ocampos, Juan Iturbe, Mauro Icardi, Fede Cartabia and Leandro Paredes also miss out.
The players below represent ten of the top talents under the age of 21 still playing in Argentina, all of whom have the potential to make a real impression in the next 12 months.
Ponce shot to prominence after he became the youngest player to make his debut for hometown side Newell’s at the tender age of 16 last year. During the Torneo Final, theprecocious centre forward netted four times in fifteen appearances, showing fearlessness and maturity beyond his years as he led the line for la Lepra. Though still raw, Ponce possesses all the qualities of a typical number 9, that is to say a powerful forward with good movement, pace and impressive heading and finishing ability. Top clubs such as Manchester Utd are rumoured to be interested and if he can continue his current trajectory then he will cement his reputation as one of the hottest properties in Argentinian football.
Javier Mascherano famously made his international debut before having made a first team appearance for River and 18-year-old Emanuel Mammana has now followed in his footsteps. The elegant young centre back was called up as part of the sparring team before the World Cup but impressed so much that he ended up playing 15 minutes of a friendly against Slovenia. One of the stars of the under-17 World Cup last year, Mammana exuded class and composure as Argentina reached the semi-finals, barely putting a foot wrong all tournament, while at club level the potential departure of Eder Alvarez Balanta to Valencia could open the door for Mammana to try and nail down a regular place in the River side in the forthcoming season. An immensely talented youngster who could go on to big, big things.
Another member of the Argentina U17 World Cup squad, tricky winger Marcos Astina impressed with his technique, pace and ability to take a man on, on more than one occasion tying his opposition full backs in knots. Whether hugging the touchline or getting to the byline to whip in a deadly cross,Astina always stretched the play and seemed capable of creating opportunities for his teammates, providing a couple of assists during the tournament. He has begun to feature for club side Lanus, scoring on his debut against Boca, and has also appeared in the Libertadores. Alongside fellow wide forwards Oscar Benitez and Jorge Valdez Chamorro, we should be seeing plenty more of him at Lanus this season.
There are certain iconic numbers in Argentinian football. The most famous is that of the number 10, denoting the playmaker or enganche, worn by the likes of Maradona, Riquelme and Messi. Equally important is the number 5, usually associated with the deep-lying midfielder either in the Mascherano warrior role or a more cerebal regista in the mould of Fernando Redondo. And currently there are a number of promising number 5s emerging from the Primera; Matias Kranevitter, Gaston Gil Romero and Joaquin Arzura, all 21, are regulars for their clubs with bright futures while Franco Mussis, 22, left this summer for FC Kobenhavn after impressing for Gimnasia LP.
At just 20, Lucas Romero is arguably the most exciting of the lot. Since making his debut back in 2012, Romero has racked up over 70 appearances for Velez and is attracting attention from Europe, namely Sevilla and Celta Vigo. A bundle of energy, the young midfielder excels at breaking up play, making challenges and distributing the ball simply but effectively. Also able contribute creativity too and weigh in with the odd assist, Romero could be a very shrewd signing.
With Geronimo Rulli and Jonathan Silva having already departing this summer, 19-year-old Joaquin Correa could be the next Estudiantes player on his way to Europe. Monaco have reportedly bid $7.5mil for the attacking midfielder as they look for a replacement for James Rodriguez. Tall, skilful and pacey with great feet and balance, Correa often appears out on the wing but loves to drive infield and take on defenders. Also blessed with an eye for a pass, his future will probably see him operate more centrally as he learns his trade. With only 30-odd games under his belt, he is still raw and needs to improve his end product but has the skillset to become a very good player indeed. Money talks however and Correa could find himself in new pastures sooner rather than later.
After legendary midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme left Boca to return to his first club Argentinos Juniors, his iconic number 10 jersey was in need of a new owner. The man handed the unenviable task of following in his footsteps is young enganche Luciano Acosta. The 20-year-old only made his debut last season but was of the bright sparks as los Xeneizes eventually finished 2nd. Standing at just 5’ 2”, the pint-sized playmaker suffered similar growing disorders to Lionel Messi but has not let his slight stature stand in his way. Excellent technique, rapid acceleration, good shooting ability and a delightful array of passing are some of Acosta’s key attributes. As Boca look to rejuvenate their squad with the arrivals of Jonathan Calleri (20), Cesar Meli (22), Andres Chavez and Federico Carrizo (both 23), we should also see plenty more of Acosta as he is handed more responsibility this coming season.
19-year-old striker Fernandez made an important contribution to Defensa y Justicia’s historic promotion from the Nacional B last season with 11 goals. Though he made his debut back in 2011, last campaign was his first real consistent run in the team, rewarding Dario Franco’s faith in the youngster. An explosive forward with a powerful shot, Fernandez will now have a chance to test himself in the Primera and following the sale of top scorer Juan Martin Lucero, himself just 22, to Independiente there will be even more onus on the young striker’s shoulders.
Another youngster who impressed in the Nacional B last season, the 18-year-old academy product helped Banfield to the title making 23 appearances, albeit largely as a substitute, and scoring one goal. A classy midfielder capable of making things happen, Requena boasts impressive passing ability and has reportedly been monitored by Boca and even Roma. He has also displayed a strong personality, cheekily telling Jujuy captain Marcelo Berza to “Tomá, comé pasto” as well as being the designated barber to shave Matias Almeyda’s head after the manager followed through on his promotion bet. Requena will now target a regular first team place and, along with other Taladro prospects Juan Cazares, Nicolas Tagliafico and Emanuel Cecchini, hope to make an impression in the Primera.
The third member of last summer’s U17 World Cup squad on the list, the River Plate striker is the pick of a promising crop of attacking talent. Now 18, Driussi first caught the eye when he netted five times during the U17 Sudamericano, including a sublime bicyle kick from the edge of the area against Uruguay. Operating as the focal point of the Albiceleste side, he scored two more at the World Cup in the UAE, showcasing his good hold up play, skills, pace and eye for goal as Argentina reached the semis. Driussi currently only has three first team appearances to his name and will be battling it out with fellow prospects Giovanni Simeone, Federico Andrada, Juan Kaprof and Lucas Boyé for a starting berth for los Millonarios but, given will almost definitely be given an opportunity by new boss Marcelo Gallardo to show the undeniable talent his possesses. A name to remember.
Voted as one of the most promising youth team players by AFA at the end of last year, 19-year-old midfielder Romero Gamarra impressed for Huracan with 16 substitute appearances. Primarily a playmaker, the creative left footer often found himself out on the wing thanks to his speed, trickery and dribbling, as displayed by his fine solo golazo versus Aldovisi. Along with teammate Cristian Espinoza, Romero Gamarra has been called up for the U18s and U20s and should be a more prominent fixture for el Globo in the Nacional B. What’s more, as the Primera looks set to expand to 30 teams, it might not before Romero Gamarra is turning out for los Quemeros in the top flight.
Written by Tom Robinson. Follow him on Twitter @tomrobbo89
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