While sides in the Nacional B still duke it out to see who will be joining the Argentinian top flight, the 2016/17 Primera season drew to a close last week with Boca Juniors ultimately getting their hands on a 32nd title. Having already reviewed Boca’s championship winning campaign and the events of the past year, this recognises the best the Primera had to offer as we give you, the Golazos 2016/17.
Player of the season
While there were a number of outstanding individual performances over the past year there were perhaps none that directly aided their respective clubs to success more than Boca Juniors’ number nine Darío Benedetto. After a relatively slow start which had already seen Boca suffer a shock Copa Libertadores semi final defeat to Independiente del Valle and lose to Lanús on the opening day, supporters were already wondering whether Pipa was going to be a costly flop.
Scoring an impressive hat-trick in the win over Quilmes was the only time Benedetto got on the scoresheet during the opening eight rounds as Carlos Tevez remained the focal point of Boca’s attack. However, the 27-year-old gradually found his form and it was after Tevez departed for China that Benedetto really assumed the mantle of match winner.
21 goals from only 24 league starts saw the former Arsenal and Club América striker take the golden boot and crucially see Boca through a shaky patch of form during the run-in. Seven goals in the last six matches fired Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side to the title and understandably alerted a number of European clubs. Boca are understood to want in excess of €20 million for Benedetto but given the 27-year-old’s ability to score all manner of goals, that could still prove to be decent business for the right club.
Manager of the season
Guillermo Barros Schelotto deserves enormous praise for leading Boca to the title, while Sebastián Beccacece and Ariel Holan at Defensa y Justicia and Independiente respectively oversaw swift improvements during the second half of the season but there was no coach that exceeded expectation more than Julio César Falcioni at Banfield.
Falcioni could do little to sully his name with the club after leading James Rodríguez and co to the Primera title in 2009 but when the 60-year-old returned to the Estadio Florencio Sola towards the back-end of the 2016 Transición, his task this season looked more likely to be staving off relegation. El Taladro had won only twice in that Transición and finished 26th in the 30-team Primera (if the two zones that were used were amalgamated) so little was expected.
However, through organisation, structure and a formidable home record, Banfield ended up being the last team standing before Boca were crowned champions. Defeat to Racing in the final fixture almost cost El Taladro a place in the Copa Libertadores but results elsewhere meant Falcioni had guided his beloved Banfield back into the continent’s biggest competition.
Team of the season
Rodrigo Rey || Godoy Cruz
Godoy Cruz’s focus was clearly on the Copa Libertadores which explained El Tomba’s somewhat erratic league form but one player who performed consistently was captain Rodrigo Rey. The 26-year-old’s displays look to earn him a move to Greek side PAOK and replacing him will be a real job for Lucas Bernardi.
Germán Conti || Colón
Only two sides conceded less than Colón and although El Sabalero’s goal scoring wasn’t enough to snatch a Copa Sudamericana spot, Germán Conti’s performances in central defence caught the eye. The lanky 23-year-old was a key factor in the side keeping clean sheets in half their games and it’s little surprise to see the likes of Lazio, Sampdoria and Inter keeping tabs.
Alexander Barboza || Defensa y Justicia
The future of Alexander Barboza remains unclear but what is certain is that Defensa y Justicia will badly miss the powerful centre back. The 22-year-old has returned to River Plate after an outstanding loan spell in which El Halcón qualified for the Copa Sudamericana and Barboza notched an impressive five goals. Marcelo Gallardo will do well to find better in his squad and Deportivo La Coruña are hovering with intent.
Nicolás Tagliafico || Independiente
Already rewarded with a call-up to Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina squad, Nicolás Tagliafico has been the heart and soul of Independiente almost since the day he arrived in Avellaneda. Strong, committed and a good reader of the play, El Capitán is idolised by El Rojo supporters and after establishing himself as one of the Primera’s best full-backs, switched with ease into the centre this season to marshal the best defence in the top flight.
Nacho Fernández || River Plate
Not all of River Plate’s transfers have been successes in the past couple of years but the arrival of Ignacio Fernández from Gimnasia has proved a masterstroke. Jorge Sampaoli took a closer look against Singapore recently but anyone who has watched River this season will know all about the qualities of the 27-year-old. A fine passer of the ball and an industrious ball winner, Nacho has proved an ideal partner to the more defensive Leonardo Ponzio and pushed further forward this season only highlighted his dynamism.
Fernando Belluschi || San Lorenzo
Given the disappointing end to San Lorenzo’s season it is easy to forget how good Fernando Belluschi was over the course of the whole season. The 33-year-old has been sensational since his return to Argentine football and his six goals and six assists were one of the main reasons behind Los Cuervos’ title challenge earlier in the campaign. Inconsistent results when the Copa Libertadores took priority saw Diego Aguirre’s side slip but Belluschi remains one of the top midfielders in the league.
Marcos Acuña || Racing Club
Now almost a regular in the Argentina set-up, Racing look almost certain to be bidding farewell to Marcos Acuña in this window. The 25-year-old has admitted that the club promised he could leave for Europe at the end of the season and is ready for the next step in his career. Few who have watched El Huevo over the past 18 months would argue otherwise; with nine goals and thirteen assists, the left-footed magician looks destined for bigger things.
Emiliano Rigoni || Independiente
If Independiente had had the number nine to match the exploits of winger Emiliano Rigoni, El Rojo would certainly have been celebrating a return to the Copa Libertadores and maybe even have challenged Boca Juniors for the title. The 24-year-old is understandably attracting interest from Europe after scoring eleven league goals but his searing pace was the main weapon for Ariel Holan’s in-form side.
Gonzalo Martínez || River Plate
The frustration for River Plate supporters for so long was that the talent of Gonzalo Martínez was clear, the application and consistency was lacking. However, everything seemed to click into place this season and Pity’s pace, skill and wand-like left foot made him one of the Primera’s most dangerous forwards. Seven goals and six assists, including a thumping Superclásico volley, quickly won around River fans and now Sporting Lisbon ponder a summer move.
Darío Benedetto || Boca Juniors
There were many who questioned whether Darío Benedetto was the man to fill the Boca Juniors number nine shirt when the 27-year-old first arrived from Club América but one year on and Pipa has cemented himself as the best that La Bombonera has seen since Martín Palermo and at the centre of intense interest from Europe. 21 goals from 24 starts not only made Pipa comfortably the league’s leading marksman but suggests that the centre-forward could be ready to take that form overseas.