Continuing our look at the best young players in Argentina, we now reveal positions 14 and 13. In case you missed it here is a recap so far:
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.
Given that Lucas Ocampos left River Plate aged only eighteen it is easy to forget that La Mole is still only twenty-one and in his footballing infancy. His career in France may have stalled but certainly the time and the talent is there for Ocampos to justify his hype.
Ocampos began his football career as a centre-forward with his hometown club, Quilmes, just south of Buenos Aires but after impressing in their youth sides and with the Argentina under-15s, he was swiftly snapped up by River Plate and it was here that he was shifted out onto the left of an attacking trident in the much vaunted Millionarios academy team.
In 2011, at perhaps the lowest point in River’s illustrious history with the Buenos Aires behemoths relegated to the Nacional B for the first time, the 17-year-old Ocampos seized his opportunity and sparkled on his senior debut against Chacarita Juniors. Marking his home debut with a towering header against Chacarita Juniors, Ocampos showed that latent striking instinct and his imposing six feet two inches frame. River gained immediate promotion but it was Ocampos who caught the eye of admirers in Europe, finishing the season with seven goals and five assists.
It was inevitable then that an offer would come in and River were in no position to turn down the €13 million that the cash-laden, and then Ligue 2 side, Monaco put on the table. It did not take long for Ocampos justify his price tag, when in only his second game for Monaco he scored a spectacular bicycle kick in the Coupe de la Ligue against Valenciennes, which was voted by the Monaco supporters as the goal of the season for 2012-13.
Ocampos showed plenty of early promise and under Claudio Ranieri playing time was easy to come by as Monaco returned to Ligue 1 but as Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev continued to splash the cash and the likes of James Rodríguez, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho arrived, Ocampos gradually became more of a fringe player.
Iconic Argentine manager, Marcelo Bielsa had witnessed enough to know that Ocampos’ combination of pace, technique, dribbling ability and versatility to play right across an attack was a commodity and brought the youngster to Marseille. Injury has hindered his progress at the Stade Vélodrome but the move was made permanent and now Ocampos needs games and consistency.
This season has been an unmitigated disaster for Marseille and Ocampos and although the youngster has been named in the preliminary list of players for the Olympic squad, it looks unlikely that he will be in Rio. Next season, whether in the south of France or elsewhere, will be an important one for Ocampos.
Jonathan Johnson – ESPN/Bleacher Report/Yahoo Sport/beIN Sports @ “Ocampos possesses a good amount of pace and has an eye for a through ball, while he also contributes well defensively when required. However, his passing and crossing is not what it should be for someone who possesses the technical ability Ocampos does. Ocampos is at the wrong club in the wrong league. Marcelo Bielsa signed him but left before he could get the best out of him. Without El Loco, Ocampos was always likey to fail in Marseille and that is how things have transpired. The best thing the player can do is to leave OM and move away from Ligue 1. Playing for a smaller club that requires him to be at his best in every match could force him to stamp out his irritating complacency.”
Jonathan Calleri’s advisors might not find themselves on any ‘best agent’ countdown lists but in spite of this, the 22-year-old is already proving a success in Brazil and the eventual move to Europe still beckons. The disappointment of being strongly linked to the likes of Chelsea and Inter Milan and ultimately being left in limbo with a third-party investment group, appears forgotten, Calleri has made a scoring start to his stay with São Paulo and a big transfer should still follow in June.
Boca Juniors have seen some pretty good forwards in recent years: Gabriel Batistuta, Martín Palermo and Carlos Tevez for example have all excelled in the blue and gold. Moving to perhaps the biggest club side in South America is a daunting task for any young striker but Calleri appeared to revel in the challenge and was unfazed by the unparalleled pressures of La Bombonera.
As the nephew of Argentine international defender, Néstor Fabbri, Jonathan Calleri grew up in Buenos Aires surrounded by football from a young age. Six years before he was born, Uncle Néstor was named Argentine footballer of the year, and although the two are very different footballers, both began their respective careers with Club Atlético All Boys in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Floresta.
Calleri came through the youth ranks with All Boys and despite impressing and ending the season as the club’s leading scorer he could not prevent them sliding down to the Nacional B. Expertly taken goals against Boca Juniors and River Plate over the course of the season alerted the Buenos Aires giants to his availability in the aftermath of relegation.
Carlos Bianchi’s Boca signed a percentage of the youngster for $300,000 and he made the move across the city to La Bombonera for the Torneo Transición. Behind Emanuel Gigliotti and Juan Manuel Martínez, Calleri struggled for a starting berth under Bianchi but when Rodolfo Arruabarrena arrived to replace the iconic Boca coach, the young forward was given his chance. El Vasco sought to implement a 4-3-3 based around some of Boca’s younger players. Calleri reaped the rewards and ended the season with seven goals from his fourteen appearances.
As Boca dominated Argentine football in 2015, Calleri made further headlines with a couple of spectacular goals. The first a sumptuous scooped lob against Temperley and the second a rabona-chip that nearly overshadowed the fact that this Quilmes match was Carlos Tevez’s homecoming.
No doubt benefitting from having Tevez partner him in attack, Calleri finished the title winning season as the leading scorer with ten goals. His increasing valuation and the return of Dani Osvaldo made an exit likely and despite it being to Brazil, rather than Europe, there remains a future Argentina international striker in the making. The switch to São Paulo will certainly not have put off any suitors with Calleri the leading scorer in this year’s Copa Libertadores. The centre forward will play an important part in Edgardo Bauza’s attempt to lift another continental title and will surely be Calleri’s final hurrah before the big move he had longed for six months ago.