Brian Bertie profiles 10 young players to watch out for in the Peruvian Liga 1.
The last decade has seen a stark in improvement in the footballing performances of teams outside of traditionally dominant powers in South America. Chile, playing a high intensity style of football, won two Copa’s, while teams like Paraguay began to assert themselves with a combination of well drilled defences and rapid attackers. One team that has been consistently impressive in the latter half of this decade has been Peru. After qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Peru followed up that effort with a silver medal finish at the Copa America 2019.
This side, under Ricardo Gareca, has made huge strides forward. As we move into the next decade, Gareca and Peru’s future rests in the hands of the young players coming through to challenge the current leaders. Here, we look at some of the emerging stars of the nascent Liga 1 2020 campaign, and players who look set to make a strong impression over the course of the near future.
Oslimg Mora // 21 // Alianza Lima
Oslimg Mora was neglected during his U20 days and just got his debut in the Liga 1 last year as he went on loan to Universidad San Martin. While he did alright there, he needed to adjust to a new rhythm of football compared to his youth days.
This season he’s been arguably Alianza’s best player even while playing out of position. Oslimg Mora was playing as a right sided wing back under Bengochea and did a decent job, which showed his versatility. Now with Mario Salas at the helm, who has a history of developing younger players, he will likely go back to his natural position of being a winger.
Overall, Mora is and has been one of the most exciting youth prospects in Peru for a few years, and this is his time to shine. After Kevin Quevedo left for Goias, Oslimg is the replacement for him and he will likely be sold abroad after having a potentially good season.
Gianfranco Chavez // 21 // Sporting Cristal
Being highly touted since Peru’s U15 triumph in 2013, Gianfranco Chavez has evolved as a player over the last few years and rapidly. While he was also neglected until the previous year, he came in the Sporting Cristal team for the underperforming Renzo Revoredo and changed the face of the Cervecero backline tremendously.
He can play as a centre back or a full back. However, when it comes to the latter his role is mostly the same: defend. He is definitely not a pacy offensive full back but he is excellent in terms of defending and passing. He has been rumoured to be on the verge of a call up to the national team due to his form and has shown incredible maturity for a defender of his age. He’s got at least another 6 months in the Peruvian Liga 1, so definitely another one to keep an eye out on when the league returns.
Jesus Barco // 23 // Universitario
One of the revelations of this season. Jesus Barco was not good at all when he first debuted at La U. However, under Gregorio Perez, he has shown tremendous development to the point that he’s one of the best U23 ball winning midfielders in the league.
His greatest strength is timing his tackles and his passing ability. His defensive work particularly is tremendous. He has 7.77 interceptions per game, which is a very high stat for a CM. He has 12.57 recoveries per game, with almost half (46%) coming in the opposition half, which highlights his counter pressing. He also makes 4 tackles per game and wins about 50% of those.
Roberto Villamarin // 23 // Ayacucho FC
Villamarin had a fantastic start to his career at UTC to the point Atlas took him in and developed him. He then went on loan to Alianza Lima but unfortunately didn’t do so well. He did pretty poorly and it seemed he wasn’t going to live up to his talent.
Ayacucho FC took him up this year and he looks back to his best, as he’s arguably been the best right back in the league. Roberto Villamarin has 3.11 dribbles per game and succeeds in at least 56% of those. He’s got 8.72 offensive duels per game, with him winning 44% of those. He’s very clearly an offensive full back but he’s also apt defensively. In style, he’s similar to Luis Advincula. While it’s unlikely he’ll hit those heights thanks to his age, he’s definitely one to watch again as he quickly rises back up.
Rodrigo Vilca // 21 // Deportivo Municipal
Vilca has been one of the revelations of the season. While he got game time before 2020, he’s shown a very high level in his first season as an out and out starter. As a result, he’s helping Municipal’s attack greatly which otherwise lacks some creativity.
Vilca is an attacking midfielder and is best at dribbling. He has 4.7 attempts per game with him winning 48% of those. So he’s been pretty successful in what he does. He also has 31 duels a game, winning 42% of them. You can tell he’s mostly involved in Municipal’s game and is their most influential player.
In 5 games he has 2 goals and 1 assist, which is a pretty good early total and it will be interesting to keep up with his development.
Nicolas Figueroa // 18 // USMP
Nicolas Figueroa was a revelation in the U17 Sudamericano and now that Peru has become familiar with him, he’s been pretty solid in his first season as a starter. He’s alternated between winger and striker and he’s done just as well on each side.
He has 23 duels per game, winning 39% of those and has 1 goal and 1 assist. Still raw stats but he’s been performing well as a whole and showing his talent. He’s definitely been the best U20 player in the league so far this season.
Renato Solis // 22 // Sporting Cristal
Patricio Alvarez has been benched for the first time since signing in 2018. His inconsistency has forced Roberto Mosquera to bench him and give the young Renato Solis a chance.
Renato had just come off an impressive Preolimpico campaign and that was probably the big driving factor towards this change, especially after a few bad early performances from Alvarez in the Libertadores and Liga 1 alike.
Overall he’s been a good replacement as he’s been way more consistent and his best trait is his shot stopping as a keeper.
Yuriel Celi // 18 // Cantolao
While he’s not made an impression in 2019 as a starter, Yuriel Celi is still very young and he’s slowly gaining the form needed to make an early jump to another league.
A bit of backstory: Yuriel Celi was the best player of the U17 Sudamericano in the previous year. He proved to be a physically strong player, technically sound and a leader. He is a versatile central midfielder who can also play on the wing or in a more advanced role.
He hasn’t played extraordinarily well in the Liga 1 in comparison to his U17 campaign, but this season he’s showed signs in few games that this would be a good year for him, and with the league returning it will be interesting to see what he can do.
Jairo Concha // 21 // USMP
He showed huge promise in 2018 when he first debuted, and was one of the best young players in the league. However, a long term injury in 2019 set him back a bit and he came back late in the season.
Despite that, his end of 2019 and early 2020 showed that he still has ability and hasn’t lost too much technically. He’s still one of Peru’s best U23 players and has lots of potential. He will definitely be around when the league returns and the attacking midfielder will be one to give a watch.
Andy Polar // 23 // Binacional
Playing for a defending champion, Andy Polar has been criticized for being mostly an “altitude player” and not playing well in Lima. That could be a myth that is waiting to be busted. It’s true he does do better in the altitude, but the player still creates danger for his teams on all grounds.
He was the best U23 footballer last season, when he helped lead Binacional to a title. He has great dribbling and speed, and has a very strong shot. His big problem is he has a weak mentality when playing away from home and often seems nervous to get a run going.
In 2020, he gets 7.6 dribbles a game and wins 68% of them, which is absolutely absurd. That’s a very high percentage for the stat, and in terms of crossing, he puts a ball in 2.36 times a game and succeeds in almost half of those. Which is also quite a high amount.
He’s definitely more of a build up player than a consistent scorer, as he doesn’t have any goals or assists yet. However, in 2019 he got 8 goals and 6 assists.
Read all our Talent Radar articles here.
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