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.
If after only a handful of senior appearances you have the likes of Paris St Germain, Roma, Atlético Madrid and Manchester City all circling then you are doing something right and that is exactly where Rosario Central’s Giovani Lo Celso found himself after bursting into Eduardo Coudet’s side at the tail end of 2015.
It would appear the French champions have won the race for the highly prized 20-year-old with reports of a €10 million deal already agreed and Laurent Blanc admitting some weeks ago that, “he’s a player in the making who PSG have been monitoring for some time.” Lo Celso’s rise since joining Central’s academy in 2010 has been meteoric and the tall, elegant midfielder has never looked out of place when stepping up to greater challenges. With superb technique, a wonderful first touch and a delightful range and weight of passing, El Mono is a natural in the attacking midfield role.
Marco Ruben has been the beneficiary as the lone centre forward for much of the season and such has been Lo Celso’s impact that president Raúl Broglia admitted the sale of Franco Cervi to Benfica was influenced by his emergence.
Since making his first team debut less than a year ago, the youngster cemented his place in Central’s starting eleven during an era of relative success for the club. Boca Juniors pipped them to the league and cup in 2015 and in 2016 their dreams of lifting a first ever Copa Libertadores ended in heartache. However, a side with a number of exciting youth products, spearheaded by Lo Celso provides reason for cheer.
One of the Primera’s leaders in assists, the 20-year-old is a natural enganche and as such has led to some comparing him with Juan Román Riquelme and while he remains some way off that level, there is enormous potential. With a decent burst of pace and a couple of goals to his name this season, Lo Celso also possesses an undervalued workrate and willingness to track back and win the ball. The enganche is a dying breed and so the Rosario born playmaker appears to have adapted to the modern game.
Lo Celso finds himself in Gerardo Martino’s preliminary Olympic squad after impressing this year and although there is already significant interest, Rio could be the platform to really announce himself to the wider football scene.
Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport named Lo Celso in their best under-20 players in the world this year and Central would be loathed to lose him at this stage in his career. The riches of Paris St Germain, however, are impossible to turn down and given how well his development has been managed in Rosario, the only hope is that this is not stunted by a premature European move.
Tom Robinson – Outside of the boot/Just Football @tomrobbo89 “Arguably the most exciting talent in the Primera over the last 12 months, Lo Celso has come to typify Coudet’s exciting Central side. Lo Celso is a silky, yet dynamic, number 10 with an absolute wand of a left foot who specialises in threading eye-of-a-needle passes or his favourite dinked ball in behind the defence. He has formed an excellent relationship with Marco Ruben who has been the beneficiary of many of his assists and will be sad to see him depart for Paris.”