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.”