With players like Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto arriving in the summer, one of the most precocious talents of the game seems to have slipped under the radar. Angel Correa has technically been an Atletico player only for a few months, but Rojiblancos across the world have been waiting for him for a year now. Read his story.
330 miles north-west of capital city Buenos Aires is Argentina’s second city, Rosario. Within the last 20 years there has been an alarmingly high increase to the number of drug-related crimes and violence in the city that have resulted in major policing and have ultimately added an ugly side to what is a remarkably gorgeous place that is both economically and architecturally significant to the proud Argentinians. Hometown to Political Leader Che Guevarra, the city that sits on the western shore of the Parana River is also the birth place of many well-known names in the football world, such as; Marcelo Bielsa, Maxi Rodriguez, Ezequial Garay, Ezequial Lavezzi, Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria and most notably, Lionel Messi.
Amongst the boasting list of heritage from Rosario’s breeding grounds is Atletico de Madrid’s number 16; Angel Correa. Standing at only 5ft 8in, the 20-year-old’s low centre of gravity and knack of marauding past opposing defenders with his majestic touches and control are all too typical of an Argentinian of his stature. When the sun goes down over Rosario, Santa Fe, the neighborhoods can be riddled with drug movement and crime. However, during the days the streets and patchy grass fields are packed with adolescents dreaming of an opportunity to ply their trade for one of Europe’s biggest clubs. It was in the said streets that Correa was spotted by local junior coaches and he played with school friends for Sagrado Corazon y Tiro.
Still raw but showing early signs of potential, Buenos Aires side San Lorenzo de Almagro took the gamble on the “street kid” and brought him to the capital to play in their under-13 academy team. Playing his way through the club’s youth ranks, Angel Correa shone brightly in San Lorenzo’s youth title championship in 2011. Flaunting his effortless ability to glide past flailing tackles he put his name on both assist and score sheets regularly, and coach Juan Antonio Pizzi gave the young man his chance with the first team in January 2013. Just days after his 18th birthday, Correa came off the bench to make his debut in a 1-0 loss in the stadium that he grew up just streets away from, his family and childhood friends were present to see their mate, son and brother’s first game against the club that he often supported from the terraces as a boy, Rosario’s Newell’s Old Boys. Not only did Correa find the back of the net 4 times and supply 3 assists in his eight starts in his breakthrough season with the first team, he played a pivotal part in Los Santos’ great run at the end of the season that saw them climb the table into a highly respectable 4th place finish.
European clubs were sniffing around the “New kid of Rosario” and Portuguese giants Benfica reportedly came agonisingly close to getting Correa to sign on a free transfer, agreeing terms with the out-ofcontract player. The teenager was close to crossing the Atlantic to join many of his predecessors in Europe, however, the San Lorenzo board quickly intervened and successfully persuaded him to sign a professional contract with them. He quickly became a fans favourite, not only with his quick feet and ability to move at an extremely fast pace with the ball under complete control, but his maturity was also pointed out by many pundits and opposition managers alike. At the tender age of only 10-years-old, Correa tragically lost his father and he has since used this as a driving force to progress and succeed. This can be seen in his courageous performances right from the get-go when he has, at times, dragged his teammates to success when all backs were against the wall. Angel Correa’s second and full season with the Buenos Aires club known as ‘El Ciclon’ (The Cyclone) was a dream of a year. Starting all but two games, an 18-year-old Correa was vital in helping San Lorenzo to win the 2013-2014 Inicial Torneo (Argentina’s Premier Division) Championship. With 6 goals and 14 assists, having played in an “Enganche” role (typical South American position, just in-behind the lead striker) winning himself a championship medal, Correa capped the season off with a spectacular goal in the final that consisted of a delightful finish following a move that he started with a perfectly weighted through-ball (seen here)
During the 2013-14 season in which Correa flourished, he caught the preying eyes of many, critically, fellow-countryman Diego Simeone. Spanish Champions Atletico de Madrid’s head coach had been watching the young man’s every move, instructing club scouts to attend the games of the eventual Argentine champions. Reports got back to “Cholo” Simeone in the Spanish capital and he wasted no time in approaching his man. With such a high turnover in players at the Vicente Calderon every summer, key striker Diego Costa had completed a big money move to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and the coach and national treasure of Argentina, Simeone not only needed players to replace the outgoing talent, but he was also looking to change the style of play at ‘Atleti’. It’s said that Cholo felt that his side’s attacking play had become predictable and needed a new direction. With such technically talented players that can move the ball such as Koke and Raul Garcia, the man of Buenos Aires felt his compatriot Angel Correa would be a perfect fit for his team’s new, stylish look. The fee was agreed, the five-year-contract was prepared and signed.
Everything was in place for Correa to pursue his childhood dreams and take the European football scene by storm. On May 28th 2014, astonishingly in the 19-year-old’s medical tests, a cardiac condition was found in his heart and the Argentine decided to undergo an operation. Correa was flown to New York to go under the knife in the Mount Sinai Hospital, a reference centre for this type of micro-surgery. The ventricle through an artery was accessed in order to remove the benign tumour as to avoid damaging the wall of the heart, which could affect performance in the future. Following a successful operation, Correa stayed in hospital for several days before returning to Argentina to spend time with his mother and brothers whilst resting. Atleti allowed the player to regain health and rehabilitate with the club through light exercises before officially signing a five-year-deal for a reported fee of 7.5 million euros and being unveiled as an Atletico de Madrid player on 13 December 2014.
This proved to be just another speed-bump in the road of Angel Correa’s promising career, sidelined for 6 months without kicking a ball, he trained with the first team and was named in the Argentina under-20 squad for the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship in Uruguay. Head coach Humberto Grondona had big plans for the kid of Rosario, starting him in his favoured enganche role in the first game against Ecuador where a magical performance led his nation to a 5-2 win, Correa scoring and supplying 2 assists to complete a man-of-the-match performance in what was a footballing lesson for the Ecuadorian opponents. Not bad for the first game back of a young player that hadn’t kicked a ball for 6 months due to heart surgery. Displaying jaw-dropping dribbling skills, Correa teased defenders with his trickery and pace to lead the next generation of stars from the never-ending Argentine football conveyor-belt to a spectacular Youth Championship title. With show-stopping passes to assist 3 goals and scoring 4 goals of his own, including the winner ten minutes from the end in the final. The plaudits were out in force for Correa who was named player of the tournament, labelling him as the closest thing to Maradona that the Argentines had seen. Quotes such as; “The boy has the movement and finishing instinct of Aguero with the tenacity and energy of Tevez” were being thrown about. Such quotes have been said before and proved to be too much for past players to live upto, crumbling under pressure and slipping off the radar. But surely not for Angel Correa. He finished the season training daily with the Atleti first team and Simeone opted against loaning the player out to gain further playing experience in Spain’s top league to keep him around to assure him of the fact that the “Rojiblancos” are the club for him and the 2015-2016 is a big one for his career.
Correa shone in preseason, scoring in the first friendly against second-tier Numancia and impressing from the bench. Hard work and commitment are ingrained in the young man’s character and good fortune permitting, he is well and truly within Simeone’s plans for the season. Finally making his first team debut in the first game of the season, replacing Oliver Torres in the 1-0 home win against UD Las Palmas, Angel Correa stole the headlines. The occasion may have been overwhelming for some, but the frustrating breaks and time away from the game seem to have a reverse effect on this prodigy that has truly breath-taking strength and charisma. Correa took the bull by the horns and broke up the visitor’s attempts to break as well as running at defenders to create opportunites at any given chance. Shoulder drops and nutmegs were on show and the boy had the “Colchoneros” on their feet.
The performance opened many punter’s eyes to the talent, videos of his moves were going viral around social media and his name was on the lips of Spanish football fans around the globe. One man that was especially impressed with the “Correa show” was the Head Coach of Argentina’s senior team, Tata Martino. Following heartbreak and many hiccups along the bumpy road, Angel Correa has been called up to play alongside the likes of Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi for the Argentina National team in their friendlies against Bolivia and Mexico in the USA in September. The call up from “La Albiceleste” will be seen as the beginning of another chapter for the young star after achieving his childhood dream of playing in Europe. Within the coming months, the raw talent of Angel Correa will be on show for all to see on world football’s biggest stages.
Read a detailed Scout Report about him here
Written by Alex Clapham
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