Continuing our look at the best young players in Argentina, we now reach the top ten. 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.
A move back to Argentina for a young footballer is often seen as an admission of failure or confirmation that the player was more hype than substance. Rodrigo de Paul’s move from Racing to Valencia did perhaps come a little too soon but the Mestalla is perhaps not the best place at present for a 21-year-old to be developing his craft. If the Sarandí born midfielder was not part of Gary Neville’s plans in January then a six-month spell back where it all began, playing Copa Libertadores football seemed a decent way of revitalizing a career.
Playing at clubs in moments of crisis is nothing new for de Paul even at his young age, as he returns to a Racing side enjoying very different fortunes to the one that he left only two years ago. Having come through the famed Academia in Avellaneda, de Paul was handed a first team debut by young coach, Luís Zubeldía in 2013 and immediately made himself a favourite with the supporters. In only his second start, de Paul drifted inside off the left and unleashed a powerful right-footed shot from distance that crashed into the net off the post, providing an early glimpse of a key characteristic of the midfielder’s game.
De Paul was to become a key fixture in this Racing side and alongside Luciano Vietto were the glimmers of light in an otherwise pretty miserable time for the club. A title looked a long way off and it wasn’t the ideal place for a young footballer to be developing but it did display a resilience and leadership that belied someone of de Paul’s age. With so many matches in Argentina coming down to this desperate war of attrition in the midfield, de Paul was willing to drop deep to get on the ball and cover a huge amount of area and despite Racing’s poor results, clubs still took notice of him.
In the summer of 2014, Valencia paid around €5 million for de Paul and despite making the worst possible debut in getting sent off after only one minute against Sevilla, the 21-year-old has gradually impressed the Mestalla faithful. However, with the club in turmoil and de Paul struggling for playing time a six-month loan back to Racing has been agreed. Regular football and the chance to compete in the Copa Libertadores may not help his integration to La Liga but at this point, getting minutes under his belt is more important.
A tall, elegant ball carrier, de Paul is able to play across the midfield but often appears on the left, where he is able to drive infield and take aim with his powerful right boot. With an eye for goal and equally a pass, Racing would have hoped to benefit from his creativity and determination in midfield this season. La Academia’s challenge in the league and Copa Libertadores were ultimately failures and De Paul struggled to make much of an impact in Facundo Sava’s side but the potential remains.
Nick Dorrington @chewingthecoca via ESPN FC “De Paul is a well-centred individual, has good technical qualities and gives the impression that he still has a lot of untapped potential waiting to be unleashed. He has shown himself to be equally comfortable as a winger as he is in carrying the ball forward from a deeper midfield role but it may be that he needs to focus on one of the two positions in order to iron out his weak points and make the most of his ability.”
Chile manager and former Valencia and San Lorenzo coach Juan Antonio Pizzi “Rodrigo is the best prospect to come through in Argentina in the last five years.”