Before even kicking a ball for the River Plate first team much was written about defender Emanuel Mammana after he followed in the esteemed footsteps of another River graduate, Javier Mascherano and made his international bow before his senior club debut. Despite it only being a friendly ahead of the 2014 World Cup, the situation would have been too much for many young players but for a boy who had already overcome far greater difficulties, it was an early example of the tremendous character that has aided Mammana’s progression.
The death of his mother at the age of six and his father before he was sixteen saw River Plate became very much a second family for Mammana, as the player expressed in an interview after breaking into Marcelo Gallardo’s side.
In the same year as his father died, Mammana represented Argentina under-15s in the South American Championships and although it wasn’t until with the under-20s in 2015 that he would lift the title, the defender has been one of the central pillars for La Albiceleste at all youth levels.
An elegant, ball-playing defender it is easy to see how Mammana was initially played in midfield but as his tactical and positional strength improved along with his leadership qualities, a transition into the back four was logical.
Gallardo used him sparingly and would initially utilise his pace as a makeshift full back but Mammana would play an important role in the first trophy of the glittering Gallardo-era. In helping River capture the Copa Sudamericana, the club ended an 18-year wait for an international trophy and Mammana became the club’s youngster-ever player to play a major final.
Adding a Copa Libertadores title the following year, Mammana’s impressive CV had a number of European clubs circling but it was Olympique Lyonnais that prized the 20-year-old away for a fee of €7.5 million.
A solid year in France saw Zenit St. Petersburg come calling when undertaking an Argentine-influenced revamp at the start of the season and Lyon were able to make a quick double-your-money deal on their investment. Mammana headed to Russia for around €16 million and must now look to settle and re-establish himself given the defender remains an outsider for Jorge Sampaoli’s World Cup squad.
That may look unlikely at present after a dip in his initial form but as Russian football expert Artur Petrosyan told Golazo, “The club has been in a mess and so it’s not the best environment for a new player to perform in a new team and a new league.”
Trailing Lokomotiv Moscow in the league and still going in the Europa League, there is still a great deal to play for for Zenit. The club know that they have a defender of great potential in Mammana but who may still require time. Even in his days with River, Mammana would be prone to the odd individual error, usually caused by his uncompromising belief in playing the ball out from the back.
If these creases could be ironed out, there is no doubting that Mammana still has a very bright future and could yet be the Argentina defender that his youth career promised.
“Emanuel Mammana is still adapting to life in Saint Petersburg and to Russian football, as he confirmed during a recent interview. He is also apparently and slowly overcoming the language barrier and he already knows a few words in Russian. Mammana played 14 league matches so far this season, plus another seven in the UEFA Europa League and it’s fair to say that he managed to pull off some solid performances along the way. Despite Zenit’s recent inconsistency, they have the best defence line in the league with just 13 goals conceded and Mammana has his fair share of “guilt” in those numbers. To sum things up, Mammana has been a good investment by Zenit and will most certainly be a key player for the team in the near future.”