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Under our Talent Radar banner, we have constantly strived to document and highlight the progress of the younger stars of the beautiful game, before they progress into household names. Our latest initiative within the burgeoning Talent Radar section is the introduction of #The7 feature.
The second edition of this annual feature champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward seven of the best young individuals across seven primary categories.
Expert Talk | Here’s what Carl Worswick, Colombian football journalist, told OOTB:
Davinson caught the eye of ex-Atletico Nacional coach Juan Carlos Osorio (currently Mexico manager) while playing as a defensive midfielder in the Colombia youth setup, before winning a quick promotion from the Nacional U17s to U20s. It took him a bit longer to break through to the first team but, after being converted to a centre back, he got his chance when Oscar Murillo was sold to Pachuca at the end of last year.
Davinson immediately stood out for his confidence on the ball, strength and aerial play, speed and particularly the way he read the game. He soon became manager Rueda’s preferred option in central defence and started every game as Nacional stormed their way to a first Copa Libertadores title in 27 years. He did have his wobbles, particularly the lack of concentration showed in giving the ball away cheaply against Rosario in the quarter-finals – also, more recently on his Colombia debut in miss-reading a cross that led to Pratto scoring for Argentina – but in general his form was excellent and everybody knew Europe called. For his style of play, Ajax seemed the perfect match.
Atletico Nacional’s fairy-year has had multiple sub-plots, each of which make you fall in love with the club. From winning the Copa Libertadores against all odds, to request to hand the Copa Sudamericana to Chapecoense, the Colombian side have won every football supporters’ hearts. One such sub-plot gives us the Talent Radar South American Young Player of the Year 2016.
20-year-old Davinson Sanchez has fought off competition from the likes of Gabriel Jesus, to emerge as our pick for this feature. The Colombian central defender played every minute of his sides’ incredible Libertadores run from the group stage games against the likes of Huracan and Sporting Cristal, all the way to the final against Independiente del Valle, including an upset over giants Sao Paulo in the semi final.
A strong defender who doesn’t shy away from a tackle, Sanchez struck a formidable partnership with experienced 33-year-old Alexis Henriquez. Together the duo helped their side to an incredible ten cleansheets in fourteen games in the Libertadores, as the Colombian side relied on it’s strong defensive structure to ensure a second ever Libertadores title.
His exploits earned him a first ever national team call-up in 2016, but more was to come for the youngster as nine days after his 20th birthday, Dutch giants Ajax snapped up the defender, realising a need for defensive solidity in a rather fast paced league. Sanchez has welcomed his new European home with open arms, having started every league game in the Dutch Eredivisie. The 20-year-old even managed to grab the first ever brace of his career having scored twice against PEC Zwolle as his Ajax side looked for a steady revival following a slow start.
When one turns to South America, it’s usually Argentina & Brazil that are spoken with a footballing breath. And the only commentary in this field involves flair, skills and goals. But Davinson Sanchez is breaking that norm, popularizing another South American powerhouse and an under-appreciated position in the continent. Last year it was free-scoring Paulo Dybala, but this year it’s hard tackling Davinson Sanchez.