For a modern day boyhood Racing Club de Avellaneda fan, there are probably two things you would dream of doing above all: make your professional debut, and in doing so coming on to replace club legend Diego Milito, perhaps followed by scoring a goal against bitter rivals CA Independiente.
So if at 18 years of age, you can check off both from your “bucket list”, as well as have a host of Europe’s top clubs openly chasing your signature, then you’d have to be a special talent called LautaroMartínez.
When LautaroJavier Martínez – August 22nd 1997, Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires, Argentina – made his first league appearance against Crucero del Norte, replacing his (and virtually every other Racing fan’s) boyhood hero Milito, he may have been forgiven for a temporary lull resting on his laurels of such a momentous event.
Albeit when barely two months later he was given the opportunity to audition for the vacant role left behind the now retired Principe, he would go one further scoring the second in a 3-1 victory over the eternal rival Club Atlético Independiente.
A prince or a pauper, or a king… maybe even a tiger?!
The goal itself (a penetrating diagonal run behind the defence, followed by an unnerving chest control, and one touch finish through the keepers legs) was virtually the perfect encapsulation of the teen forwards rather notable attributes, as well as of course the ideal way of announcing the youngster to a bigger audience.
A powerful, barrel chested forward, Martínez’s strength to hold up the ball, and intelligent movement off it have resulted in a seemingly almost effortless ability to find the back of the net.
Indeed his tigerish aggression in front of goal have seen some even draw stylistic parallels with another striker of a distinguished recent past in the Argentine domestic championship: Colombia’s Radamal “El Tigre” Falcao.
The pretender to the throne
A meteoric rise is not uncommon in the domestic Argentine game, with both players and fans alike accustomed to players packing their bags at increasingly more precocious ages. This in mind it would hardly come as a surprise that Lautaro Martínez was already a name on the majority of the scouts notebooks at this summers L’Alcúdia Under 20’s international tournament in Valencia.
It was there that Martínez’s inspired performances set international tongues wagging even further, bagging 3 goals and leading Argentina to yet another final defeat. Albeit earning him the player of the tournament in the process.
With the dust barely settled the player himself confirmed to the media that Real Madrid had been in touch with a view to taking him on loan to their youth team, presumably wanting to team him up with compatriot and manager of the Castilla side Santi Solari.
However, Florentino Pérez and Co were to find out that they had arrived late to the party in registering an interest, with fellow La Liga side Valencia CF reportedly already agreeing a preferential option on the player when allowing the loan return of Rodrigo De Paul to Avellaneda last season.
Add to this talk of former Racing manager and current Atlético Madrid boss Diego Simeone is monitoring the players progress, means Lautaro Martínez surely has to be one of the more sought out properties in Argentina at the moment.
The youngster though looks set to stay put, due to Racing president Víctor Blanco’s insistence on securing a deal in and around the players €8 million release clause.
The leader of the class of 2016
Part of talented group of youngsters that somewhat resembles Racing’s last bumper crop of Vietto, De Paul, Zuculini and Fariña. It remains to be seen if Racing’s recent managerial shakeup will end up benefiting the deadly marksmen with more first team football.
Martínez in particular will face the stern competition from yet another Racing idol and new found mentor Lisandro López, as well as the devastating (yet injury prone) Gustavo Bou.
Nonetheless the high profile departure of Colombian forward Roger Martínez, as well as the insistence by the AFA on investing further in the Argentina youth sides, could well see the dynamic young forward refine his game even further back home.
What is guaranteed also is it will not be without the watching eye of much of European footballs royalty, keeping tabs on what could well end up being the next Once and Future Prince of Avellaneda!