And so the Golazo 50 2017 finally comes down to this. 50 outstanding talents and perhaps 50 more that had to be cut, but here is the number one.
In case you missed it here are the picks so far…
50-46 / 45-41 / 40-36 / 35-31 / 30-26 / 25-21 / 20-19 / 18-17 / 16-15 / 14-13 / 12-11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 2
To be eligible for the list, you simply need to be born on or after January 1st 1994.
Dan Williamson provides some expert insight into the latest on the list.
Argentina toiling under the management of Edgardo Bauza was at times an excruciating experience. El Patón, for all his achievements at club level in South America, looked ill-equipped to handle the players and almost inexplicably failed to find a balance in midfield. Bauza’s stumbling career in charge saw Argentina almost lacking a midfield entirely and while Jorge Sampaoli is still trying to address this, La Albiceleste cry out for the type of players, able to link play, break lines, protect the defence while crucially getting the ball forward to Lionel Messi and co.
Step forward Leandro Paredes, Zenit St. Petersburg’s cultured number five, who may yet be the man to fill that void.
While the role of deep-lying playmaker may now be one that is associated with Paredes that wasn’t always the case and earlier in his career the suggestion would have perhaps raised eyebrows.
At the age of eight, Paredes was snapped up by Boca Juniors from his local club, an hour or so away in Buenos Aires province, and his incredible technical ability saw him promoted into the first team picture at sixteen. Tales of a naturally gifted enganche had filtered through from the academy and it wasn’t long before comparisons with the incumbent Boca number ten at the time were heard, none other than Juan Román Riquelme.
It was perhaps the presence of the iconic Riquelme that in fact prevented Paredes having a greater impact at Boca as after making his debut against Argentinos Juniors towards the end of 2010, it wasn’t really until the 2012 Torneo Inicial that the youngster began featuring regularly.
Soon after Boca were bidding Paredes farewell and despite looking like a premature move, the midfielder eventually proved that he was more than ready for the rigours of Italian football.
Roma had paid €4.5 million for the teenager but the deal was immediately complicated by the Giallorossi running out of non-EU squad places and so instead having to see Paredes join Chievo Verona for a year. A wasted spell there eventually saw Roma complete the transfer but back in the capital proved equally frustrating as there was little room for an untested 20-year-old in a scudetto chasing side.
However, it was away from the Stadio Olimpico that Paredes was able to flourish and when the midfielder that is discernible today was formed. A loan to Empoli under manager Marco Giampaolo saw Paredes dropped deeper, to the base of the midfield, where his range of passing and ability to work in small spaces with little time came to the fore.
The skill-set from his earlier days as a more attacking outlet were put to great use but what developed in the role was a defensive side to his game that had gone unnoticed. An understanding of the position saw Paredes winning tackles and making interceptions before quickly transitioning defence into attack.
Returning to Rome following the sale of Miralem Pjanic, Paredes was now ready to take some of that creative responsibility. In his newly acquired deeper role, the 21-year-old became a regular, if not definite starter, during the 2016/17 campaign as Roma finished runners-up to champions Juventus.
Teams from across Europe were being linked with moves for Paredes, having now proved himself at one of Europe’s top clubs and part of newly appointed Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina plans.
However, no sooner had Paredes made his international debut, scoring in a 6-0 win over Singapore in June 2017, the midfielder was signed by Zenit St Petersburg during their flurry of Argentinian transfers. The move came as something of a surprise but as an important part of Roberto Mancini’s side, the midfielder has continued to impress.
One of the top passers of the ball in the Russian league and instrumental to Zenit’s outstanding Europa League form, Paredes remains in Sampaoli’s plans and will now hope to cement a spot in the midfield ahead of the World Cup.
Amid a number of tactical tweaks and shuffles that Sampaoli will try over the coming months, Argentina could do far worse than give Paredes a run in the team. Not only might he prove an inspired choice this summer but could be a long-term fulcrum from which to build on.
“Superb long-range efforts and free-kicks drew obvious comparisons with Boca legend Juan Roman Riquelme in Leo Paredes’ early days. A move to Italy followed and it appeared he was being groomed as Daniele De Rossi’s heir at Roma, before a surprise move to Russian side Zenit St Petersburg, where there is a burgeoning Argentinean contingent.
“Rather than being the death knell for his career, it should allow him to gain much needed regular first team football, and surely a move to a more prestigious league and club will follow in the next year or two.
Although he is seemingly in national team manager Jorge Sampaoli’s plans he has been on the fringes of the starting XI and I firmly believe the team is crying out for a player of his qualities. Paredes emerged at Boca predominantly featuring as a left-sided attacking midfielder, cutting in and using his right foot although since the move to Europe he has become more of a classic Argentine number five, able to dictate play from deep with a superb range of passing and an ability to break the lines of the opponents. A superb player and more than worthy of the number one spot in the Golazo50.”