Banfield’s rise from bottom of the table whipping boys to Copa Libertadores qualifiers in the space of a year took many by surprise and while wily, old coach Julio César Falcioni deserves enormous praise, the emergence of Emanuel Cecchini was absolutely vital.
The 20-year-old’s bustling all-round game in central midfield provided El Taladro with a degree of defensive protection, an outstanding engine and a drive from deep that pushed them back into the continent’s premier cup competition and ultimately landed Cecchini a European move.
La Liga club Málaga eventually signed the youngster for an initial €4 million, a figure that sits somewhere between tremendous value and absolute robbery, and while the Andalusians may have had a difficult start to the season, a potential future midfield of Cecchini and compatriot Esteban Rolón is exciting.
A native of Rio Negro province, Cecchini arrived in Banfield’s academy at thirteen and made his senior debut under the guidance of Matías Almeyda three years later while the club was still fighting for promotion back into the top flight. However, despite being among the top prospects in the academy it wasn’t until last season when iconic manager Falcioni had returned to the club that Cecchini established himself as a regular.
27 appearances last season, Cecchini’s combination of ball winning, passing and shooting from distance earned him plaudits and almost took him to Inter, where former Banfield and Argentina defender Javier Zanetti works as sporting director. That deal falling through at the last minute, has been Malaga’s fortune and Cecchini will certainly be one player to keep an eye on.
“Cecchini, like his former club Banfield, seemed to sneak up and take everyone by surprise last season. Nominally a defensive midfielder but with the dynamism, technique and long range shooting to make him a much more all-rounder in the centre of the park, the 20-year-old was a key component of El Taladro’s fifth-place finish. While the likes of Ascacibar and Bentancur may have got more attention and hype, Cecchini’s performances were arguably just as good and earned him a move to Málaga. It seems an astute move for the Andalusians and the prospect of an all-Argentinian base of midfield with Esteban Rolón is an exciting one. Given that Argentina has struggled to produce good box-to-box midfielders, it is well worth keeping tabs on Cecchini’s progress at La Rosaleda.”
It’s easy to forget about Rodrigo de Paul given the 23-year-old seems to have been on the brink of breaking through for years. But despite not exploding onto the European football scene and struggling for consistency, there remains a very real talent lurking in Udine.
Finally De Paul has found the stability that his young career craved and in Serie A, Udinese are now reaping the rewards. A regular since signing for the Zebrette a little over a year ago, Rodri has been able to showcase his talents and in addition to providing a creative spark to the attack has contributed some important goals.
It may be three years later than expected but after a frustrating couple of seasons, the player who burst out of the Racing Club academy is fulfilling something close to his potential.
De Paul joined Racing at the age of eight and after progressing through the famed academy with a talented group, including the likes of Luciano Vietto, Ricardo Centurión and Bruno Zuculini, the midfielder made his debut under Luis Zubeldía in 2013. The 18-year-old’s impact was immediate and aside his boundless energy, varied passing range, ability to carry the ball at pace and beat his man, De Paul exhibited a tremendous shot from distance.
As a regular starter and eventual leader, despite his tender age, in a struggling Racing side it was little surprise to see European clubs lining up for De Paul. Valencia won the race for his signature but the troubled Spanish club didn’t provide the most suitable environment for a young player making his first steps.
A disastrous red card one minute into his debut aside, there were some bright moments at the Mestalla but they were fleeting and when a loan back to Racing failed to re-ignite De Paul, there were concerns that he might not achieve the success that most predicted.
However, a permanent switch to Udinese appears to done the trick and after a good debut season, De Paul has already got a goal and an assist to his name in this campaign. The lad from La Academia may come good after all.
“De Paul struggled at first to make the transition from Primera promise to European regular. The ex-Racing starlet failed to consolidate a decent start at Valencia and ended up at his old club at loan last year, but finally found his place in Serie A where he has become an indispensable part of the Udinese first XI. Blessed with excellent passing range and with a keen eye for goal, De Paul is the archetype of a modern Argentine No. 10, roving across the final third and tormenting defenders across Italy.”