Gonzalo Maroni: Boca Juniors’ latest teenage sensation

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“When I shot on goal, my mind went blank. All I wanted was the ball to go in, nothing more,” were the words of 18-year-old Gonzalo Maroni after announcing himself to the world with a dream first start for Boca Juniors in La Bombonera.

However, there was far more to Maroni’s performance than just the exquisitely struck volley that provided the icing on Boca’s victory over Arsenal.

In the absence of Ricardo Centurión and a recent dip in form, Guillermo Barros Schelotto turned to the teenager and the Córdoba-born playmaker didn’t disappoint with an exciting, goal-scoring display.

The first-time volley past Pablo Santillo ensured that Maroni made the headlines but the technique and confidence required to score such a goal was evident throughout the hour that preceded it.

While many youngsters may be overawed by the occasion, Maroni thrived under the spotlight and was a constant thorn in the side of relegation threatened Arsenal with his direct running from midfield.

“I was told on Saturday that I was going to start the game and they asked me to stay calm. I played a little less relaxed than in the reserves and when I scored I felt the weight of the supporters,” the youngster said at full time.

The expectation is huge at La Bombonera particularly in the advanced midfield role that Maroni occupied on Sunday and while it’s far too early for any comparisons, when the 18-year-old flicked the ball over the head of one Arsenal player and nutmegged the next in an instant, it was difficult not to think of the nonchalant brilliance of Juan Román Riquelme.

Riquelme and Tevez are usually the benchmark for any Boca academy graduate to aspire to but perhaps a sign of the times and the fact that Maroni is a product of Instituto de Córdoba, Paulo Dybala is the skillful teenager’s idol.

Maroni’s plan to do Dybala’s trademark mask celebration went out the window in the emotion of the moment and while his father stated that Gonzalo only dreams of becoming a champion with Boca, the youngster has added, “I’d die if I could play with Dybala.”

Just like his hero, Maroni came through Instituto’s youth ranks and while Dybala made his senior debut at seventeen breaking Marío Kempes’ record as the club’s youngest goal scorer, Maravilla Maroni got his first call-up at sixteen.

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Even before this, Maroni was well known prompting city rivals Belgrano and San Lorenzo to try and tempt him away from the Estadio Presidente Perón.

However, the prodigious talent remained with Instituto to make five appearances before Boca Juniors swooped and paid the not insubstantial amount of 6.5 million pesos for 90% of Maroni’s ownership in 2015.

Since then Rolando Schiavi’s reserve side has been the where the tricky playmaker has honed his skills and it is a signifcant show of faith that Guillermo Barros Schelotto turned to the 18-year-old over the likes of Fernando Zuqui, Nazareno Solis or Junior Benítez against Arsenal.

Maroni had played only six minutes in a Boca shirt previously when a second-string side faced Estudiantes last year but with Ricardo Centurión still some weeks away from fitness, the former Instituto player could be set for a far more significant role in the squad.

With a superclásico just around the corner, there could be a wonderful opportunity for Maroni to write himself into Boca history: “Everyone dreams of playing in the clásico, but I’m clam, very happy and grateful. This was something I dreamed of.”

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