Continuing our look at the best young players in Argentina, we now reach number five. 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.
Back in 2006, Atlético Madrid paid a then club record fee for a diminutive bundle of energy from Argentina; just under ten years later, Atleti returned to the same market to capture a no less exciting talent. Sergio Agüero went on to become an icon inside the Vicente Calderón and although Diego Simeone is introducing Ángel Correa cautiously, the supporters have seen glimpses of just how special the 20-year-old could be.
Arriving from Argentina at a young age and sharing certain physical attributes with Agüero, it is an easy comparison to make but one which Simeone was quick to dismiss after Correa announced himself in La Liga, scoring his first goal against Eibar.
“Ángel can play in any part of the pitch, as a third forward out wide, or up front if needed. Kun is more a finisher of moves,” El Cholo explained. This distinction is absolutely correct and makes Correa as much of a creative force as he is an outright goal threat himself.
Throughout his short career, the Rosario-born player has illustrated this and San Lorenzo and Argentina’s youth sides have been the real beneficiaries so far.
Since progressing through the youth ranks at San Lorenzo, after joining at the age of 12, Correa has been one of those prodigious talents on the radar of European scouts. Benfica attempted to snap up the teenager before signing his first professional contract with Los Cuervos but thankfully for coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, the club held firm and after giving the 18-year-old his debut in early 2013, Correa never looked back.
A key part of the San Lorenzo sides that won the Torneo Inicial and subsequently the Copa Libertadores, Atlético moved fast to secure his signature and just as this exciting next chapter of his career was beginning, a benign tumor on his heart was discovered that cast a huge doubt over his future.
Following successful surgery, Correa returned to captain the Argentina under-20s in the Sudamericano and immediately reminded everyone just how good he is. With four goals and three assists in the tournament, Los Pibes triumphed and Correa was without question the star of the show. Atleti breathed a sigh of relief; their bargain had paid off.
A rapid dribbler with the ball with excellent vision and an eye for goal, Correa is a dangerous player anywhere in the final third of the pitch, whether it be dropping deep into midfield or out wide on either flank.
Already a part of Gerardo Martino’s Argentina squad, Tata rightly said, “His call-up was inevitable because he is Argentina’s standout young player,” when Correa was drafted in for the friendlies against Bolivia and México in the USA in August 2015. Yet to look daunted or out of place either in La Liga or internationally, Correa is destined for a huge future and will no doubt be a central part of La Albiceleste’s plans.
David Cartlidge – beIN sports/FourFourTwo @davidjaca “The most unique player on the Atleti squad, remarked one senior player at Diego Simeone’s club. Indeed, Angel Correa has already shown enough to convince those who matter at Atleti he will be one to keep an eye on the future. Big plans are in store for the player, who operated more as an impact sub last season, but he may have to wait. Just a little bit. Correa’s lack of fear and ability to drive at opponents in a direct manner enthused Simeone, and if he can find better decision making in the final third the young man from Rosario could be a serious outlet for Atleti in the coming seasons. A loan has been discussed, but the feeling is Correa has something to offer immediately.”
Rob Brown – SB Nation/robbro7.com @robbro7 – “The first time I saw Correa was in October 2013, and never before has a player made such an impression on me. Perhaps due to the relatively low standard and cynicism of the Argentine Primera at that time, his trickery, directness and fearlessness immediately marked him out as One To Watch. I’ve since come to see him as an odd kind of Argentine ‘villero’ clone of Peter Beardsley – the similarities are so numerous and obvious as to be uncanny. Correa is taking his first steps at the highest level of European football, slowly but surely, and, provided the bad luck that has characterised his life to date ends now, he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Nick Dorrington via ESPN FC @chewingthecoca “It is difficult to find anyone with a bad word to say about Correa. There are few genuine flaws to his game, and his current attributes will provide an excellent base for Simeone to work with over the next couple of years, as he seeks to mould this explosively talented young player into a consistently decisive performer at the top level.”