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.
There are perhaps advantages and disadvantages to being the son of such a high-profile Argentine icon like Diego Simeone; on the one hand, the young player can learn from the experience and wisdom of his father and on the other, they can be crushed under the weight of expectation. Giovanni Simeone is a very different player than the aggressive, all-action midfielder El Cholo was, and after a promising start to his career the hope is that he can enjoy a similar level of success.
Certainly River Plate have thought very highly of Giovanni for several years and slapped a hefty release clause on the young striker when he signed professional terms with the club in 2011 after impressing through the youth ranks. Since then chances have been limited, as they are at any big club, barring only the most prodigious of talents but Simeone has shown enough that there could be a very capable number nine lurking.
Los Millonarios will hopefully be the beneficiaries someday but so far Simeone’s best has come in an Argentina shirt and during the second half of last season while on loan at Banfield. When Argentina under-20s lifted the Sudamericano in February 2015, Simeone was the tournament’s leading scorer with nine goals. One only needs to look at the previous winners to see the potential but perhaps the level of development needed – for every Neymar or Edinson Cavani, there is a Hugo Rodellega or Abel Hernández. Gio is far from the finished article but fed by the talents of Ángel Correa and Cristian Espinoza, the 20-year-old proved himself an able finisher.
During the second half of 2015, former River boss Matías Almeyda took Simeone to Banfield and it proved to be a hugely beneficial move for all parties. The youngster was playing regular Primera football and his return of seven goals from fifteen is decent. Linking up nicely with the likes of Juan Cazares and Mauricio Cuero, El Taladro produced some superb football and Simeone was able to illustrate far more to his game than a mere poacher.
Simeone has remained with Banfield for and with player sales depleting their striking options, the 20-year-old has played a far more important role at the club.
Sam Kelly – ESPN, When Saturday Comes, The Blizzard @HEGS_com“Gio Simeone struggled to really make his mark at River Plate, where bit-part appearances off the bench had him largely feeding on scraps. Since moving to Banfield and becoming central to his team’s attack, his confidence and eye for goal seem to have increased, and he should be an interesting player to watch in the next couple of years.”
There will be few quicker players on the list than Huracán’s young speed merchant, Cristian Espinoza and his dazzling, direct performances for El Globo and the Argentina under-20s have already caught the attention of European scouts.
Having been with Huracán almost his entire life, Espinoza is one of a very select group to have joined the club playing baby futból and progressed through every level of the youth structure to represent the senior side. Immediately impressing supporters at the Tomás Adolfo Ducó during his debut season in 2013, when the club was battling for promotion from the B Nacional, Espinoza rarely looked out of place and his pace on the right of attack was a real weapon for El Globo.
Argentina obviously thought so too, and so it was little surprise when Humberto Grondona selected Espinoza for his under-20 South American Championships squad in 2015. Lining up alongside Gio Simeone and Ángel Correa in attack, Espinoza flourished and as Los Pibes lifted the trophy, the Huracán youngster ended the tournament leading the assist ranking.
Injury somewhat curtailed his progress at club level after this but since returning during the 2015 season, Espinoza further displayed his potential. Powerful centre-forward Ramón ‘Wanchope’ Abila has been a real beneficiary and between his goals and Espinoza’s searing pace on the break, El Globo have enjoyed a period of real success. Following triumphs in the Copa Argentina and the Supercopa, Huracán came within a penalty shootout of lifting their first international trophy in the Copa Sudamericana.
There is no time for the club to bask in what has been a successful year, as 2016 brings a new Copa Libertadores campaign and a complicated Primera season, which began staving off possible relegation but for a while brought an unlikely title challenge.. Espinoza is likely to be central to any progress that Huracán make and the 20-year-old has a wonderful platform to impress.
Tom Robinson – Outside of the boot/Just Football @tomrobbo89“Despite having only just turned 21, whippet quick winger-cum-wide forward Crisitan Espinoza has already amassed over 100 games for Huracan. Always looking to stretch play and get in behind defences, Espinoza’s acceleration and crossing ability make him a constant threat & a perfect foil to Wanchope Abila up front. Does need to add more goals to his game though.”