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.
Such was Leandro Paredes’ reputation as one of the most talented teenagers in world football it could have been argued that his move to Europe came too soon.
Billed as the heir to Juan Román Riquelme’s throne while graduating from the Boca Juniors academy, El Mago had barely made an impact at first team level before Roma swooped. A couple of difficult seasons behind him in the Italian capital and with Verona are now in the past and Paredes is only now showcasing his worth on loan at Empoli.
Exemplary technique and the ability to thread a pass through the eye of a needle, it is easy to see why those at Boca billed Paredes as the next great enganche, while the deity that is Riquelme wound down his career at La Bombonera. The truth however, is that the Boca faithful didn’t really get a good look at this before a €4.5 million bid from Italy prized Paredes away.
The difficulty with the transfer immediately got the youngster’s fledgling career off to a bad start as Roma ran out of non-EU squad places and so instead had him immediately sent to Chievo Verona for a year before finally completing the messy deal a year later.
The year with Chievo had proved less than fruitful and the following season with Roma was equally frustrating as there was little room for an untested 20-year-old while chasing a scudetto. In danger of seeing a vital part of his development wasted, Paredes was sent to Empoli for this current season and at last, Italy is seeing a little of what all the fuss was about.
Dropped deeper from an enganche-type role to play as a more traditional central midfielder, Paredes is showing a combativeness to his game that had otherwise gone unnoticed. Leading the club in terms of average tackles per game while being one of the side’s best passers of the ball, the 21-year-old has developed a far better all-round game and shown a physicality that many doubt South American youngsters will have when arriving in Europe.
Chievo finished the Serie A season comfortably in mid-table and the form of Paredes was central to this. 2016 proved to be a wonderful learning curve and Roma will very likely benefit from this when he returns for the 2016/17 campaign.
Conor Clancy – Forza Italian Football/GazzettaWorld @concalcio“Paredes is another extremely exciting Argentine in Italy at the moment, and, after a very good season on loan at Empoli, it’s probably just a matter of time before he impresses at Roma. “With Luciano Spalletti in charge, Paredes could be the man to occupy the No.10 or a regista role and take some of the creative responsibility left by Miralem Pjanic, should he move on. “Technically, Paredes had enormous potential and at times you can’t help but draw comparisons with Juan Román Riquelme when you watch him unlock a defence with a seemingly impossible pass. That is not to say that he is already at that level, but he shows quite regularly that he has the potential to achieve a great deal. “Another thing in his favour is his pace. He is extremely quick and has a great ability to keep the ball close to him even when at top speed. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t go on to achieve big things in the next few seasons.”
Jack Rathborn – via umaxit.com Mirror Football/ESPN FC/Football Radar @JackRathborn“One of the finds of the season in Italy once Marco Giampaolo experimented with the Argentine as a holding midfielder; the 21-year-old flourished in a deeper role with his wonderful invention and ability to resist opponents’ pressing him in deep zones. Paredes’ patience in possession despite being harried and ability to force a pass through the lines to a teammate make him a unique talent.”