All the players are eligible to play in the Olympic football tournament (born on or after 1 January 1993) and do not have to be playing their club football in Argentina. Debate between several of the Hand of Pod team has narrowed it down and as we get deeper into the countdown, some expert opinion will throw a bit more light on choices.
Feel free to comment as this is not a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination. There are some obvious names, hopefully some not so obvious names and probably double the amount that were mentioned but had to be cut.
Here is the third part of the Golazo Argentino Best 50 youngsters, positions 25 to 21….
It is for very good reason that River Plate and Rosario Central were so keen on speaking to Estudiantes regarding the availability of Gastón Gil Romero and that the Football Manager series has for sometime rated the youngster so highly. At 22, Gil Romero has already clocked up close to 100 appearances for El Pincha and despite his tender age captained the famous Argentine club before this summer making the switch to Central.
Since making his debut against Deportivo Merlo in the 2012 Copa Argentina, Gil Romero has been looked destined for great things. A product of the illustrious La Plata academy, his assured performances in central midfield throughout the youth sides and up to senior level caught the eye, as there was a maturity not often seen in teenagers.
The number five is a highly valued role in Argentine football and Gil Romero is a classic example – breaking up play with timely interceptions and busy tackling, serving as a vital first step in transitioning from defence to attack. With only one goal to his name it is clear where the midfielder does nearly all of his work and as a result much of it goes unnoticed but the value of a ball winner and engine in the middle of the pitch is paramount.
Eduardo Coudet obviously thinks so and as Central contend with the strains of the Copa Libertadores and the Primera División, Gil Romero will bring some real grit to their midfield. The deal is for an initial 12 months but a price of $2.2 million has already been set – if he proves a success it is likely that Central will be nothing more than a stepping stone.
Tom Robinson – Outside of the boot/Just Football @tomrobbo89 – “Captain at Estudiantes at every age group, Gil Romero was one of an exciting batch of young Argentinian number 5s and looked to be on a sure path to success. However, the tenacious midfielder seemed to fall out of favour in La Plata and now is looking for a fresh start on loan at Central.”
Alan Ruiz is perhaps finally coming good on the considerable talent he showed as a teenager after several frustrating loan spells where it appeared his potential would never be realised. Without question, Colón’s standout player has struck seven goals in nine Primera appearances from what is almost a false-nine role for El Sabalero and it is little wonder that Sporting Clube de Portugal have already moved to acquire his services in June. Question marks remain over the 22-year-old’s attitude but the Portuguese club obviously feel he is worth a gamble.
A product of Gimnasia’s academy, Alan Ruiz made his first team debut for his hometown club in La Plata aged seventeen and immediately impressed with his varied array of passing. Already a central figure in Argentina’s under-18s and under-20s, Ruiz was tipped for greatness in the competitive number ten role but it wasn’t long before his questionable character saw him on the move for the first time.
San Lorenzo swooped for the exciting teenager and again despite impressing initially, manager Edgardo Bauza was less than enthused with his attitude and work ethic. Loan spells with Grêmio and Colón saw his career falter and it wasn’t until this season when suddenly Ruiz served a reminder of his talent.
However, while Ruiz has displayed his wand of a left foot to great effect in 2016, the playmaker has also shown his petulant side by demanding out of Colón in the wake of a heavy clásico defeat. Sporting Clube de Portugal have provided a route out by paying $6 million but Ruiz must improve his work ethic if he is to prove a success in Europe. His goals are testament to his undoubted quality but any signs of laziness or disregard will not be accepted in Lisbon.
Tom Robinson – Outside of the boot/Just Football @tomrobbo89“There is no questioning Ruiz’s mercurial talent and on his day, such as against River this season, he can absolutely run the show with his slaloming runs and venomous left-footed strikes from range. However, doubts remain about his mentality and he needs to add consistency if he wants to graduate from being a big fish in a small(ish) pond at Colón to making a significant impact at new club Sporting Lisbon.”
The name of Lucas Romero is one that has been very familiar to followers of Argentine football or more likely disciples of the Football Manager game franchise for a couple of years and although the Cruzeiro defensive midfielder may struggle to live up to his wonderkid billing in the virtual world, the 21-year-old is genuinely of world-class potential.
Since making his debut for Vélez Sarsfield as an eighteen year old during the 2012 Inicial, Romero went on to make almost 100 appearances for El Fortín and with his contract running down and the club in financial difficulties, he was always likely to leave. With boundless energy and a powerful physique, Romero is an imposing figure in central midfield but it would be unfair to simply label him as a destroyer in front of the back four.
In addition to his solid defensive work, Romero’s work rate and underrated passing and technique make him a decent enough box-to-box type midfielder. With only three goals to his name so far, it is clear where El Perro operates on the pitch primarily but at his young age that is not something that will necessarily be true of the rest of his career.
2015 was a torrid year for Vélez as Romero ended up being one of the more experienced players in a side that relied heavily on its academy. A move away always looked inevitable and although Europe appeared the likely destination, Romero looks to do that via Brazil. After clocking up more appearances than most promising young players in the Argentine top flight, it was time and with a fear of his career stagnating the move to Cruzeiro may yet prove beneficial.
Tim Vickery – BBC, Sambafoot, World Soccer @Tim_Vickery“A tough and talented Argentine central midfielder, often compared to Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano. Maybe more reminiscent of a slightly more defensive version of a young Diego Simone.”
Since being signed by Villarreal at fourteen, Matías Nahuel has developed into the yellow submarine’s most-prized academy product. An almost immediate impact with the Villarreal C and B sides despite being under sixteen, led to a senior debut in 2014 against Real Sociedad and since then he’s been a regular first-team presence.
Superb touch and balance, Nahuel is a wonderful dribbler, who looks to commit defenders but it is his awareness and passing ability that separates him from many attacking talents at his level of development. A graduation through Villarreal’s youth ranks playing more centrally has provided the 19-year-old with the vision and patience that is so often lacking at this age and although Spanish newspaper once proclaiming Nahuel as the new Messi is wildly premature there is a justified buzz that surrounds the tricky Argentine.
Nahuel may prove to be ‘the one that got away’ for Argentina after the Rosario-born winger’s time in Spain has seen him switch allegiance to Spain. Representing La Roja rather than La Albiceleste at various youth levels it appears likely that if Nahuel is to have any international career it will be in Europe. Whilst he is still eligible however, his outrageous talents make him a more than worthy entrant to this list.
David Cartlidge – beIN sports/FourFourTwo @davidjaca“Minutes have been few and far between this season for Nahuel, and he must remain patient for his chance will no doubt come once Denis Suarez returns to Barcelona. Nahuel’s problem has been his lack of defensive contribution, and ability to play the whole team game. From an attacking perspective, he is a fine source of ingenuity. Marcelino likes his players well balanced though, and this will be Nahuel’s task from now on.”
A major star at youth level for Argentina and River Plate, Sebastián Driussi has been tipped for big things for a number of years and now the 19-year-old is perhaps ready in 2016 to show Marcelo Gallardo what he is capable of on a more regular basis.
A spectacular overhead kick against Uruguay as Argentina under-17s lifted the 2013 Sudamericano alerted many to his talents but Driussi followed this up with a golden boot award as River Plate lifted the under-17 Club World Cup in Madrid. Progressing through the Albiceleste youth ranks, coach Humberto Grondona has described the forward as “a special player…a forward who has the ability to decide games” and this has been proved by Driussi’s role in the under-20s repeating the Sudamericano triumph of two years earlier.
River have enjoyed enormous success in the period since Driussi made his debut during the 2013 Inicial and although his part in that has been minimal, the striker has displayed his pace, trickery and eye for goal. Versatile enough to play wide for Gallardo this has probably reduced his opportunities to score more often for the senior side but Driussi could be an important figure for River over the next year or as they defend their Copa Libertadores title whilst balancing domestic duties. A bright future beckons for the 19-year-old and if River can oversee his development a little further over the next year or two, a European move surely awaits.
Sam Kelly – ESPN, When Saturday Comes, The Blizzard @HEGS_com“A quick and talented player, but his best (or at least, preferred) position is something of a mystery. He broke through playing as a forward but has been preferred in midfield when he’s featured for River more regularly. If he can learn he role, he could improve, but for the moment the jury’s out.”