The Torneo Final is still a month away and with the European Transfer Window now open, speculation is rife. Golazo looks at 10 players who have been lighting up the Primera Division over the past year and now have some of Europe’s biggest teams casting an eye over them.
10. Agustin Allione – Velez Sarsfield
Velez have been one of the strongest sides in Argentina over the past few years helped by the steady stream of talented youngsters in their ranks. One of those to have caught the eye since debuting during the 2012 Clausura is 19-year-old, Agustin Allione.
The diminutive winger makes up for his slight build with pace and trickery and according to reports has now attracted the interest of Barcelona and Manchester City.
Allione has represented Argentina at under-17 and under-20 level and will be hoping to cement his place in the first team for Velez.
2 goals in the previous Torneo Inicial, Allione is slowly growing into his role at the club and so perhaps any move to Europe would be a little too soon.
Velez would certainly be reluctant to lose one of their prized assets but the rumoured hefty price tag may put off suitors until Allione has proved himself a little more.
9. Hector Villalba – San Lorenzo
In the absence of injured strikers, Martin Cauteruccio and Gonzalo Veron, San Lorenzo’s Torneo Inicial triumph was an impressive feat. Now departed coach, Juan Antonio Pizzi deservedly took many of the plaudits but his use of 19-year-old, Hector Villalba was a key factor.
Villalba may have only scored 3 goals in the title winning season but his presence in every 19 matches is evidence of his importance to the side. Hard working, pacy and strong Villalba linked up well with San Lorenzo’s other attacking players.
Ukranian side, Dnipro have been credited with a link for Villalba but have now been joined by Italian giants, Roma. With Pizzi now in place as Manager at Valencia there is also the possibility that he will want a reunion with Villalba in Spain.
8. Lucas Romero – Velez Sarsfield
Calling Lucas Romero merely a holding midfielder would be doing him an injustice as there is far more to his game than just the cleaning up in front of the defence.
Romero burst onto the scene in the 2012 Torneo Inicial as injuries to first team players provided an opportunity to showcase his talents. Going on to play 13 times that season, Velez won the championship and interest in Romero started to grow.
A combative ball winner, Romero also has a wonderful range of passing. Whether stopping attacks or starting them from deep, Romero is the type of player much sought after in Europe.
Manchester United are rumoured to be interested as they seek a long-term replacement to Michael Carrick but will have competition should Romero be set to leave Argentina. Atletico Madrid are also said to be keeping an eye on the 19-year-old but it is understood that Velez would demand a fee in excess of $10 million.
7. Luciano Vietto – Racing Club
Coming off the back off a poor Torneo Inicial with Racing it is easy to forget how highly thought of Luciano Vietto is. The 20-year-old forward is a dangerous finisher and despite his size is capable of scoring all manner of goals.
Certainly interest in Vietto has not diminished with a host of top teams scouting him over the past year. Real Madrid and Juventus and more recently, Liverpool have all reportedly registered an interest and even though Racing are another of the Argentine clubs short of money he would not come cheap.
The fact that Vietto holds an Italian passport certainly makes a possible transfer even more likely as any potential visa issues are avoided but Racing will be wanting to make amends after their woeful Torneo Inicial, losing Vietto would not be a good start.
Vietto was handed his Racing debut in 2011 by Diego Simeone and so links to Atletico Madrid are understandable but a goal scoring record of 15 goals in 48 games at such a young age makes him a target of any number of teams.
8 goals in the 2013 Torneo Final including 2 hat tricks provides some justification behind the otherwise very biased view of his agent: “Vietto is the best young player in Argentina.”
6. Juan Sanchez Miño – Boca Juniors
Blessed with a fantastic engine and the versatility to play anywhere along the left or in a more central midfield role it is little wonder that Sanchez Miño is on the radar of several sides.
Now 24 years of age, Sanchez Miño is a little older than the others on this list and although Boca fans might not agree it could be a good time to leave La Bombonera. Juventus, Napoli and Benfica have all been linked but the player himself fancies a move to England or Spain, “If I have the chance to choose, and if I get the chance to be transferred to European football, I would like to play in England or Spain”.
In addition to his versatility, whoever signed Sanchez Miño would also be getting a wonderful left foot capable of delivering some dangerous set pieces and crosses from the left.
5. Manuel Lanzini – River Plate
Still only 20 years of age but having made his River debut back in 2010 it is sometimes easy to dismiss Lanzini as wildly inconsistent. However, at this early stage of his career some allowance should be made because Lanzini’s talent and potential is unquestionable.
Ramon Diaz has been deploying Lanzini in his favoured number 10 role and now is the time for Lanzini to step up. Very skillful with an eye for goal it is not surprising Roma are one of the clubs linked, after success with their last River import, Erik Lamela.
However, they are not alone. German super powers, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are said to have been watching and Southampton’s Argentine boss, Mauricio Pochettino is a fan.
Lanzini had a short loan spell in Brazil with Fluminese 2 years ago where consistency was again the issue but if the gifted playmaker could pull it together on a regular basis we could see a future Argentina number 10.
River’s financial woes and their reluctance to sell Eder Alvarez Balanta could mean that a transfer of Lanzini is more than likely.
4. Angel Correa (San Lorenzo)
Another of San Lorenzo’s speedy front men has also been touted for a European move following a series of fine displays in the Primera Division.
At only 18 years of age, Correa has only been in the San Lorenzo side since the 2013 Torneo Final but the pacy wideman has made an instant impact in the Nuevo Gasometro and was central to their championship success.
8 goals in the past 2 championships show his eye for goal but his technique and versatility to play across a front 3 would be a valuable asset to a number of sides.
Another Rosario native, like Lionel Messi, ownership of Correa was recently linked to a Rosario based drug ring but it was not dispelled the rumours of an imminent move abroad. Arsenal, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid have all been mentioned as possible suitors but with Juan Antonio Pizzi now in charge at Valencia, the Mestalla could be the destination.
A fee in the region of $4.5 million is said to be the figure desired by San Lorenzo.
3. Leandro Paredes (Boca)
Reports in the press this weekend suggest Paredes might be about to seal a loan move to Roma after months of speculation. A highly talented attacking midfielder with superb passing ability has drawn comparisons with Boca legend, Juan Roman Riquelme but with the latter still holding a place in the team it appears Paredes will be looking for first team football elsewhere.
Now 19, Paredes has been the jewel in Boca’s youth system since making his first team debut back in 2010. However, injury and competition for places has limited the amount of opportunities given to the young playmaker.
An elegant midfielder capable of unlocking defences Paredes could be set for a big future and if Roma have managed to steal in front of the likes of Arsenal, Real Madrid and Juventus it could be a great piece of business.
2. Geronimo Rulli (Estudiantes)
Goalkeepers perhaps do not always feature prominently on these lists but the meteoric rise of Estudiantes keeper, Geronimo Rulli has not gone unnoticed in Europe.
It was an injury to first-choice keeper, Agustin Silva during the 2013 Torneo Final that presented Rulli with the chance and after a series of superb performances the 21-year-old stopper has not looked back.
A run of 543 minutes without conceding a goal has led to Rulli become Mauricio Pellegrini’s number 1 and an ever-present for the Torneo Inicial.
Standing 6 foot 3 and with great reflexes, Rulli has all the attributes to be a world-class goalkeeper and at such a young age a long career at the top beckons.
Barcelona and Manchester City have both been linked with a move for Rulli but the player remains grounded “It is with great pride that I see myself linked with a team like Barcelona, but I know nothing.”
1. Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate)
Since coming into the River side in the midst of an injury crisis while not actually signing his professional contract, Colombian centre back, Eder Alvarez Balanta has earned rave reviews and immediately attracted every top European side.
Balanta has everything to be a top defender: Quick, strong, a good reader of the game and despite being only 6 foot a very good header of the ball. Originally a midfield player, Balanta is also very comfortable on the ball and so it is only a matter of time before River cash in on one of world footballs hottest talents.
After just a couple of performances, Balanta was already being compared to River legend, Daniel Passarella and was the subject of interest from Inter Milan but River quickly got him signed to a new deal.
New President, Rodolfo D’Onofrio has stated that Balanta is not for sale at present but with River Plate in the red a sizeable transfer fee would be difficult to turn down.
Already called up to the Colombia squad and interest from Barcelona illustrate just how good Balanta is and it is now just a matter of time before he is plying his trade for one of Europe’s top sides.