Friday, April 8, 2011

Latin Wonderkids 2

When I did my first "Latin Wonderkids" post a few years ago, all of the players I chose were playing in South America. In the months since, all of them bar one moved to Europe. The one who didn't had already been and returned before I wrote the piece. Young South American talent doesn't stay long in South America, and you can probably expect to see every one of the players listed below in European football over the next year or two.

Juan Manuel Iturbe of Cerro Poteno (Argentina)

Born in Argentina to Paraguayan parents, this tricky little forward has been dubbed the "Paraguayan Messi". An unfair comparison for any player, that, and yet from his appearances for Argentina in the South American U20 Championship and for Cerro Porteno in this years Copa Libertadores, it's almost understandable. Short and stocky yet with a brilliant ability to surge past players with a burst of sudden, unmatchable acceleration, the Messi comparisons stem from his habit of drifting in from the wing and combining clever one-twos with dribbles and feints. He can also finish off those moves, and his play is as reminiscent of Carlos Tevez as it is of Messi. The circumstances of his birth meant that he was eligible to play for either Argentina or Paraguay, and he opted for Argentina after appearing for different youth teams for each Country through his teens. European clubs have been sniffing around him for a couple of years, and he has already signed a pre-contract agreement with Porto, which means he officially becomes their player when he turns 18 in June. Any knowledge of Porto's transfer dealings with South America suggests that they know their business, and if that's not enough, here's some Iturbe in action:

Erik Lamela of River Plate (Argentina)

That the current River Plate first team is thriving and playing some sparkling, fluid attacking football is down mainly to the brilliance of the generation of players recently produced by the Clubs academy. Playmaker Manuel Lanzini, centre forward Gabriel Funes Mori and winger Roberto Pereyra all look to be potentially fantastic talents, but the undoubted star at the centre of this constellation is 19 year old Erik Lamela. He gained some noteriety when Barcelona tried to buy him as a 12 year old, forcing River's Chairman to offer his family financial incentives to remain in Buenos Aires. His emergence into the Senior squad has suggested Barcelona were wise to try to grab him early, as his value will only grow from now on. Possessed of an elegance and sweetness of movement which belies his lanky frame, Lamela can play on the left, but his most effective role appears to be as an enganche or playmaker. His long legs give him terrific pace, enabling him to drift effortlessly past tackles, and his left foot is a magic wand; he is already taking most of River's set-pieces and is the hub around which some lovely passing moves revolve, prompting and moving with intelligence and subtlety. River have already given him the Number 10 shirt formerly worn by such legends as Enzo Francescoli, Pablo Aimar and Ariel Ortega, which isn't bad company. But with a host of European clubs circling it seems unlikely he'll get to wear it for too long...

Lucas of Sao Paolo (Brazil)

His full name is Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, so, ensuring maximum confusion when he shares a pitch with fellow Brazilian Lucas Leiva, of course he's called Lucas. He's an entirely different player, however, a stocky, quick little attacking midfielder who began his career at Corinthians before moving to Sao Paolo, where he has been compared to Kaka. That's more due to position than style, but he is as explosive as that Brazilian playmaker. He dazzled at the South American Under 20s, scoring a hat-trick in a dazzling 6-0 destruction of eventual Runners-Up Uruguay. He combines aggressive eruptions of dribbling with slide-rule passes, making him terrifying in the final third. Brazil's problem over the next decade may well be how to accomodate both him and the more widely known and equally gifted Ganso. Not a bad problem to have, admittedly.

Gio Moreno of Racing Club de Avellaneda (Colombia)

Colombian playmaker Moreno is a fantasy player, the sort who does unbelievable things, a luxury player who never bothers defending- never bothers with any of the "negative" aspects of the game - but the sort who can turn a Match in an instant. He's the kind of player who makes you remember why you love football. Elegant, technically perfect, athletic and gifted with superb imagination and vision, Colombia's National team ought to be built around him for the next ten years. His first Season with Racing Club in Argentina instantly confirmed his promise - here was a player seemingly worthy of comparison to the Leagues MVP, Juan Roman Riquelme, and bearing some similarities as a player - and he has been consistently linked with Porto among several big European clubs. A serious injury early in the Season has ruled him out for the remainder, severely damaging Racing's hopes but probably ensuring he stays in Argentina for another Season at least.

Diego Rubio of Colo Colo (Chile)

This 17 year old Chilean striker has goals in his blood. Son of former Colo-Colo forward Hugo Rubio, his brothers both play professionally in Chile and legendary striker Ivan Zamorano (ex-Real Madrid and Inter Milan) is his Godfather. So it's perhaps no surprise that he has scored five goals in his first three appearances for Colo Colo, and that there have already been calls for his selection for the Chilean squad. I've only seen highlights so can't really comment on his style as a player, but you can't argue with this impact or the finishing in this clip:

Ruben Botta of Tigre (Argentina)

This 21 year old attacking midfielder has risen to prominence this year back in Argentina at Tigre, after a baffling spell on-loan at FK Ventspils in Latvia. He came through the youth system at Boca Juniors, and can play both as playmaker and on the left side of midfield. He is exciting and inventive on the ball, with an eye for the spectacular and he seems to be growing into his talent, a good sign in a creative player:

Ivan Pillud of Racing Club de Avellaneda (Argentina)

Pressure? Try the Coach of your National Team invoking comparisons to a living legend and claiming that you can replace him. Thats what Argentina Coach Sergio Batista did when he discussed 24 year old Right Back Pillud in the same breath with Javier Zanetti. But watching Pillud for Racing Club this Season, the comparisons make sense. In a 3-4-3 formation which demands most from its wing-backs, he is a force of nature up and down the flank, displaying attacking threat, defensive sense and quite awesome stamina. He debuted at Tiro Federal in the Argentine Second Division, moved briefly to Newells Old Boys before a big transfer to Europe and Espanyol. There he barely played, and went back to Racing on loan last year. After early injury problems he has been a revelation, and is a contender for a spot in the Argentina Squad for the Copa America this Summer.

Raul Ruidiaz of Universitario (Peru)

Universitario Desportes are one of Lima's, and by extension Peru's big two alongside Allianza Lima, and their big homegrown success over the last few seasons has been 20 year old Ruidiaz, a forward heavily linked with Udinese, who probably see him as a replacement for bound-for-a-bigger-club Alexis Sanchez. The similarity there would be Ruidiaz's penetrative dribbling ability and recent nose for goal. Far from the finished article, he shows undoubted talent and promise, and a move to the right European club in a year or two might be just the thing for his development.

Bryan Carrasco of Audax Italiano (Chile)

Almost a Brazilian-style full-back in that he can play purely in defence, as a winger or as a marauding Wing-back, Chilean Carrasco has gained some notoriety of late due to a ridiculous simulation during a Chile-Ecuador U-20 Qualifying fixture a few months ago where he slapped himself in the face with an opponents hand then dived to the ground clutching himself. Vile as that behaviour may be, Carrasco is an exciting, enterprising defender, strong and fast, confident on the ball and hard in the tackle. Tottenham Hotspur have been consistently linked with him, but at 20, he's only been in the Audax Italiano Senior team since the start of this Season and perhaps needs a little more experience before he makes such a move.

Santiago Garcia of Nacional (Uruguay)

Stocky, explosive 20 year old Uruguayan striker Garcia has scored 39 goals in 69 games for Nacional of Montevideo as well as 5 in 9 for the Uruguayan U20 team. It's a matter of time before he is fighting for a place in the senior squad alongside Forlan, Suarez and Cavani, and probably only a matter of time before he's playing in Europe, too.

  • 101 Great Goals
  • Football 365
  • Guardian Football
  • Hasta el Gol Siempre
  • BBC Football
  • Football Shirts