It took only a handful of senior appearances for many of the European powerhouses to start circling around Giovani Lo Celso when he burst into the Rosario Central during the second half of 2015. Argentina loves an enganche and with his deft touches, superb technique and delightful range of passing, it was quickly evident that his talents weren’t unappreciated elsewhere.
Born in Rosario, Lo Celso was a graduate of local club Asociación Atlética Jorge Griffa and it was here that his early skills was identified resulting in Rosario Central picking the teenager up in 2010. Climbing through the academy up to the reserves, Lo Celso was handed his senior debut by Eduardo Coudet in 2015.
In his second appearance against Sarmiento, Lo Celso assisted centre forward Marco Ruben and this link was to be one which Central benefited hugely from. The playmaker’s immediate impact was one of the reasons that president Raúl Broglia agreed to the sale of Franco Cervi to Benfica in the same year, safe in the knowledge that the side’s creativity wouldn’t be diminished.
Central wouldn’t manage to lift any silverware in this period with Boca Juniors pipping them to the league and cup in 2015 and 2016 but the downturn in form since the likes of Lo Celso departed the Gigante de Arroyito has been telling.
Paris Saint-Germain beat plenty of opposition to the signature of Lo Celso only a year on from that debut as in that short space of time, the midfielder had already shown he was ready for the next level. The enganche might be a dying breed but when a player can create space and beat a defender with just a touch, or thread an eye of the needle pass through to a teammate it still causes hearts to race.
“After a lengthy adaptation period, Giovani Lo Celso is finally starting to find his feet in Europe with Paris Saint-Germain. The now full Argentina international has won coach Unai Emery’s trust and since late November, has started creeping into starting XIs and not just making the odd five, ten, 15, 20 or 25-minute substitute appearances. Lo Celso has started Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France matches and although he is yet to taste Champions League football, his showings in the domestic competitions have been good enough (so far) to suggest that he will be kept around and will eventually get to sample it.
“Still only 21, the man from Rosario is a player PSG are planning for the future with. What is most interesting, perhaps, is that despite the fact that Lo Celso is naturally a more attacking player, Emery believes that he has the capacity to play as a defensive midfielder in the Ligue 1 leaders’ possession-based 4-3-3 formation, which also has the possibility of being a more counter-attacking system since the introductions of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
“The Spanish tactician has started to convert the South American in the same way that he has done with Germany international Julian Draxler, albeit in a slightly more advanced midfield role, and utilised him when Thiago Motta and/or Adrien Rabiot have been unavailable. Lo Celso has done surprisingly well there, despite the fact that he is not the physical of defensive player.
“Long-term, it is probably not an ideal fit for Les Parisiens’ No. 18 but for now, it is getting him minutes and proving to himself, PSG and the French capital outfit’s supporters that he has earned his place at one of Europe’s top clubs. Key to the next step for Lo Celso likely lies with compatriot Javier Pastore’s future. With the injury-prone former Palermo star likely to move on, there will be a clear role for the younger Argentinian to make his own moving forward. The only problem is that Pastore’s place is not a guaranteed starting berth and that is why el Flaco wants out.
“Lo Celso has time on his side and as he has proved with a couple of superb assists/roles in goals, he certainly has the quality to succeed at Parc des Princes. Now his future will be shaped by whether he can build on that promise, maintain his versatility and discipline if played in defensive midfield again and stay patient as matters that are outside his power, such as Pastore and Emery’s futures, are resolved. The next few months will be very interesting for PSG but also Le Celso.”
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