Paulo Dybala was number one in the Golazo 50 last year and just like the Juventus and Argentina star, Mateo García is a Córdoba native and product of local club Instituto. The 20-year may not have caused quite the same stir as his compatriot had at the same age but still gave reason for European clubs to sit up and take note.
After breaking into the Instituto first team as a 17-year-old, having come through the youth ranks, García’s pace and trickery immediately set him apart from many of his peers and so it was of no real surprise when after a year as a regular with La Gloria, La Liga club Las Palmas paid around €400,000 for the youngster.
Understandably the enormous step up from the Nacional B to perhaps the best league in the world has taken some getting used to and García’s appearances have been fleeting but when given the opportunity, the winger hasn’t looked at odds with surroundings. Always looking to be positive with the ball, García is able to stretch opposition defences, whether running in behind looking for balls through or running at the full back with the ball at his feet.
Small, fast and tricky, García fits into that almost archetypal young South American player and with two La Liga goals last season provided a decent account of himself. With experience and playing time now paramount to aid his development, Las Palmas have opted to loan the 20-year-old to Osasuna. Regular starts in the Segunda División should do García the world of good.
“Mateo was competent when called upon, especially given how quickly he was introduced to the first team picture although it was clear to see some apprehension and inexperience in his game (understandable given the overnight transition from second division football in Argentina), the 20-year-old showed enough in terms of application and quality to warrant the initial buy for Las Palmas.
Though he was obviously identified for his on-ball talent, Mateo always ensured he was of no detriment to the team even when he couldn’t affect the game with this attacking intent. It’s now up to him in the coming seasons to recognise how he can consistently imprint his individual ability on games, without getting lost in the proceedings as a diminutive, smaller player.
He’s going to spend the 2017/18 campaign on loan at Osasuna in the second tier, which looks a wise move Las Palmas in aiding his maturity and overall level of competition. The more football he played, the more influential he seemed to get; which gives me confidence for how the next year might go for Mateo.”
There will have been plenty of moments during 2016 when Independiente supporters looked back with regret that the club didn’t cash in on Martín Benítez when Real Madrid and Galatasaray came calling earlier his career but after losing his way during 2016, the 23-year-old was somewhat rejuvenated under manager Ariel Holan.
Still the cause of great frustration in Avellaneda, there is a player capable of both the sublime and the ridiculous in the space of a few minutes but if the creases could be ironed out, El Rojo know that they have a tremendous talent on their hands. Able to play up front, as a support striker, a number ten or out wide, Benítez’s versatility in attack in an asset but has also prevented him holding down one position.
With the pace to play on the wing, the trickery and technique to play behind a centre forward and the attacking instinct to commit defenders, Benítez can so often do everything right only to fluff his finish or select the wrong pass. However, Holan’s counter-attacking unit has seen the Misiones-born player show flashes of what he is capable of.
There is no doubt that Benítez has not achieved what he promised since breaking into the Independiente side but there is still time and he could play an important role for El Rojo this season.
Every young player dreams of Europe but while for some it is a natural step in their progression for others it comes a little too soon and only serves to hinder that development; Cristian Espinoza falls into the latter category unfortunately but with a loan deal to Boca Juniors secured for the coming season, the 22-year-old can come again.
The lightning quick winger-cum-forward was outstanding for Huracán, in support of big number nine Wanchope Ábila, as El Globo lifted the Copa Argentina and Supercopa before coming within a whisker of the Copa Sudamericana. Those direct displays, tearing down the right flank, and similar ones for the Argentina under-20s which helped La Albiceleste to the 2015 Sudamericano, prompted Villarreal to pay €7.2 million one year ago.
With no place in the Yellow Submarine’s squad, Espinoza was shipped out to Deportivo Alavés, where presumably manager Mauricio Pellegrino would have been more than familiar with his talents. Regardless, the young forward saw little action and in January dropped down a division to join Real Valladolid. This too proved rather fruitless and so Espinoza is now back in Argentina under the guidance of Guillermo Barros Schelotto to help Boca Juniors defend their title.
Barros Schelotto has already explained what Espinoza will bring to the side with his searing pace and for a team that enjoyed such success on the counter last season, it would seem a perfect move.
“It was easy to see why Villarreal signed Espinoza from Huracán last summer. A small, clever and technical forward, he looked a perfect fit for the 4-2-2-2 formation that has become their hallmark. But his first season in Europe was a difficult one. He showed promise when he finally got a decent run of matches at Valladolid in the second of his two loan spells, but he really needs to regain some momentum now he is back in Argentina on loan at Boca Juniors.”
Argentina loves an enganche; that languid playmaker who makes a second seem like an hour and a inch like a mile whenever the ball is near and while Emanuel Reynoso still has some way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats, the Talleres midfielder was a delight during the last season.
After progressing through the youth system and helping La T back into the Primera after a twelve-year absence, Reynoso’s role in central midfield was a major factor behind Frank Kudelka’s side making the transition to top flight football look relatively easy. A wonderful passer of the ball, Reynoso has not only the vision to spy runs that many wouldn’t but the technique to thread them.
The 21-year-old’s passing aside, Reynoso is also equipped the required tools of any enganche – the bewitching touches, flicks and dribbling skills to bamboozle opponents in addition to a dangerous left foot.
It could, however, have been very different for the youngster after being shot in the leg back during a robbery in 2014 and Bebelo has demonstrated incredible resolve to get back to this level so swiftly.
It was perhaps Reynoso’s display in La Bombonera, inflicting a rare defeat on Boca Juniors last season, that really caught the eye and Talleres are now fighting off interest from not only Argentina’s grandes but the likes of Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica too.
“A classic Argentinian number 10 boasting fantastic vision, dribbling and range of passing, Reynoso was one of the standout young players in the Primera last season. Bebelo pulled the strings of a youthful Talleres side, back in the top flight after a 12 year absence, and was sensational in their history victory against Boca in the Bombonera.
His rise to prominence is even more impressive given the fact he was shot in the leg three years ago and if he can avoid the ongoing off-the-field issues he can go onto even bigger and better things.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s iconic Newell’s Old Boys side of the early 1990s that lifted two Primera titles leaned heavily on youth and for all of El Loco’s idiosyncrasies, his ability to bring through young players has been evident throughout his career. Now at Lille, there are few better places for a striker like Ezequiel Ponce to develop than under the stewardship of Bielsa.
Just like his new boss, Ponce has Newell’s in his DNA but since even before his senior debut, the 20-year-old has had to contend with lofty expectations. As a member of the under-15s, the powerful, young centre forward scored 35 goals in the season and so when former youth coach Alfredo Berti was in charge of the senior side and experiencing something of an injury crisis, there was little surprise he turned to the 16-year-old.
Goals may not have flowed quite so abundantly as they did in the youth sides but El Tanque never looked out of place and his mature hold-up play caught the eye, sparking interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Roma. The Serie A giants eventually took Ponce to Italy but the striker was only able to shine in the title winning reserve side.
Last season’s loan to Granada may have only shown flashes with Ponce predominantly a substitute but there are still the raw ingredients of an outstanding centre forward and Bielsa’s Lille might just be the real beneficiaries this season.
“Having burst onto the scene as a precocious teenager, it’s often all too easily overlooked that Ezequiel Ponce is still only just 20 years old. Despite his meteoric rise in the game somewhat stalling since arriving in Europe owing to a mixture of injury and missed opportunity.
El Tanque as the former Newells Old Boys youth product is affectionately known, will now be looking forward to the upcoming season working under La Lepra (and Argentine football) legend Marcelo Bielsa at Lille OSC, in Ligue 1. A world-renowned master of youth development, Bielsa will be charged with getting the best out of fellow Rosario native Ponce, in what should prove a significant season in the youngster’s career.”