With Argentina earlier announcing the 30 players who make up their preliminary World Cup Squad, it has prompted an immense amount of discussion of not only who is ‘in’, but who has been left ‘out’. Needless to say Carlos Tevez has been hogging the limelight in this respect but it is possible to make a decent looking 11 from those not in Sabella’s 30. Argentina’s depth means this is by no means definitive so feel free to comment but I think it’s safe to say that there are a number of teams in the World Cup who would fancy a few of these players….
It is not bad going when you can have a reserve side that includes three current league champions and a strike force worth the best part of £100 million.
Anyway, here is the Argentina Alternative 11….
Willy Caballero (Málaga)
Malaga’s ever-reliable keeper, Willy Caballero has once again been proving himself to be one of La Liga’s top stoppers this season (Just ask Atlético Madrid who last weekend were thwarted by Caballero).
There is a strong argument that Caballero is the strongest of the 3 goalkeepers, actually called up by Sabella but the Argentina coach has always stayed loyal to his first choice group. It is certainly hard on a goalkeeper as good as Caballero who at 32 years of age, and with an exciting crop of Argentine keepers coming through will almost certainly now miss out on going to a World Cup.
Gino Peruzzi (Catania)
Young Peruzzi has already been marked as one for the future but having been in Sabella’s squads during qualification and for the last friendly against Romania he may feel a little aggrieved at missing out on the preliminary squad.
The 21-year old attacking full back made quite a name for himself with his consistent displays for Vélez Sarsfield, most noticeably when up against Neymar, when their sides met in the 2012 Copa Libertadores.
Perhaps injury and his move to Catania have hindered his progression but at such a young age Peruzzi has plenty of time. In 2018 if Peruzzi develops into the player that those who watched him in Argentina believe he could be, we may well be talking about Argentina’s starting right back.
Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United)
Coloccini has had a troubled season in Newcastle this season, hindered by injury and rumours of his own making about a return to his beloved, San Lorenzo.
The result has seen Coloccini a shadow of the player that was picked in the 2011 PFA Team of the Year.
With any pace that Coloccini once had slowly diminishing and now a creeping tendency for rash decisions it is now real surprise that he is fallen down the pecking order.
Perhaps Coloccini’s potential place in the 30 has been robbed by Manchester City’s, Martín Demichelis. Certainly in the closing weeks of the Premier League season it was Demichelis who caught the eye rather than Coloccini.
Federico Fazio (Sevilla)
Fazio has performed at a high level in La Liga for sometime leading to a host of high-profile clubs eyeing the former, Ferro Carril Oeste defender. However, following his comments regarding Alejandro Sabella and Argentina in March it comes as little surprise that he is has been ignored ever since.
Fazio described it as “a little disrespectful” that Sabella has continued to overlook him given his performances. The suggestion being that Sabella called up several defenders playing at a far inferior standard.
That may well be true but if any coach is likely to be undeterred by this, it is Alejandro Sabella.
Lucas Orbán (Bordeaux)
Certainly a mistake in River Plate’s recent transfer dealings, Orbán proved himself to be one of the top left sided defenders in Argentina’s Primera División. Tigre benefited from this for a while, initially on a loan deal, before Bordeaux took the 25-year old to France on a permanent deal.
Only back in November, Sabella called upon Orbán for a friendly against Ecuador in New Jersey as a number of potential defensive changes were given an opportunity. However, a difficult night against Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero led to the wide spread belief that Orbán had missed his chance.
Esteban Cambiasso (Internazionale)
One of the most decorated Argentine footballers in history, with 23 titles to his name, the 33-year old midfielder is still going strong in Italy with Internazionale.
Without doubt a fifth placed finish in Serie A constitutes a poor season for a club like Inter but as always Cambiasso has been an almost ever-present in the heart of their midfield. Hard working, good in the tackle and a decent passer, Cambiasso has won trophies his whole career and has the experience of being part of the 2006 World Cup side. Given the potential injuries to Gago, Banega and Fernández perhaps Cambiasso could have sneaked in but Sabella obviously feels that the time has passed for a veteran like Cambiasso and prefers to look to the future.
Javier Pastore (Paris St-Germain)
When Paris Saint-Germain shell out just under €40 million for a player he must be pretty decent but unfortunately for Pastore with that money comes serious competition for places and so diminished playing time in Paris has seen his World Cup hopes dashed.
There is absolutely no doubting Pastore’s ability, his goal against Chelsea in this season’s Champions League is proof of that, but like in Paris there is competition for Argentina too.
Pastore is a classic enganche and it was his blistering form while at Palermo that made him one of Europe’s most sought after midfielders and what prompted Diego Maradona to include him in his 23-man squad in South Africa.
While the move to Paris will undoubtedly have made Pastore a richer man it arguably has cost him his chance to play in Brazil. Still only 24, Pastore has time to come back and so his Albiceleste career is far from over.
Nico Gaitán (Benfica)
Another of the current league champions, Gaitán has been instrumental in Benfica’s wonderful season. Already crowned Portuguese league winners, Benfica also have the Europa League Final to play and with team mates, Ezequiel Garay and Enzo Pérez rewarded with a place in the squad, Gaitán will be disappointed.
Full of tricks and with an eye for goal have seen Gaitán regularly linked to some of Europe’s biggest clubs (or at least richer clubs – apologies to any Benfica fans).
With only 6 caps since his debut in 2009 it is safe to say that Gaitán has not really been in Argentina’s plans for a while but I would wager a great number of sides at the World Cup in Brazil would kill for a player of his ability.
Érik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur)
It is safe to say that Lamela’s £30 million move to Tottenham has not been a successful one so far. And unfortunately for Lamela it has cost him his place in Sabella’s plans.
Injuries have played their part but Spurs are yet to see any sign of the player who burst onto the scene with River Plate and then terroried defences in Italy with Roma.
Just 9 league appearances and a solitary Europa League goal are the fruits of Lamela’s first season in England and although Sabella has previously called upon the youngster, this season has seen him plummet in the pecking order.
In spite of his poor season Lamela was a second half substitute for Sabella as recently as the November friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina but given the second half of the season it was very difficult to argue the case for his inclusion now.
Still just 22, a new manager coming in at Spurs and hopefully a full pre-season could see a rejuvenated Lamela next season and so a recall would be very realistic.
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)
Surprise, surprise, Carlos Tevez is not in Sabella’s Squad. Yes, we all know he is a great footballer and no, Sabella does not think that Franco Di Santo is a better striker than him so stop right there.
19 Serie A goals and another league title to his name and an affiliation with the people of Argentina like no other player, how can you leave him out?
Quite simply Tevez has not produced anything near this type of form while playing for Argentina and in fact since his departure from the squad, there has been an upturn in form, particularly with Messi. It has been suggested that Tevez and Messi do not get along too well and playing second fiddle to the 4 time Ballon D’or winner does not suit.
However, gossip aside Tevez’s national team stats do not make impressive particularly impressive reading. Just 13 goals from his 64 appearances does not compare with Agüero or Higuaín and as Tim Vickery stated in an article on this topic “The last time Tevez had an extended run in the side was in the 2010 qualifiers, when his 11 starts and one substitute appearance yielded just one goal and two first-half red cards.”
Mauro Icardi (Internazionale)
Like Messi, Icardi is a native Rosarino and an early move to the Canary Islands with his family saw Barcelona snap up the talented youngster. However, their careers have followed different paths as Icardi decided to leave La Masia and sign permanently for Sampdoria.
Goals followed and subsequently Inter Milan swooped for the 21-year old. After a slow first half to the season, Icardi has finished strongly with 9 goals in what has still been a disappointing season for Inter.
Icardi was called up by Sabella for the Uruguay match back in October and had some promising words for the young striker, saying that he offered something different and hinted he could be a good alternative to Higuaín. Perhaps his recent celebrity status following his part in the messy love triangle between Maxi López and his former wife and the subsequent, dreadful Pepsi advert have not done Icardi any favours.
If the striker gets back to concentrating on football there is every chance Icardi will be part of La Selección’s future plans.