The inaugural Superliga has come to an end and while Boca Juniors were crowned champions there were a number of other outstanding performances, from Godoy Cruz rocketing up into second, Huracán and Talleres nicking Copa Libertadores spots and Defensa y Justicia taking on the grandes.
Those team achievements were backed by some tremendous individual displays and while we could only pick eleven, there were many more left just outside. Here is our Superliga 2017/18 Team of the Season and some of those that missed out….
Martín Campaña || Independiente
While there is no doubting Franco Armani’s immediate contribution to River Plate’s rapid rise up the table in 2018, one goalkeeper excelled throughout the season and it’s little surprise to see his side end the campaign with the best defensive record. Martín Campaña has proved an outstanding piece of business for Independiente since joining from Defensor Sporting in 2015.
The Uruguayan international has been a consistent performer as El Rojo have gone from strength to strength under Ariel Holan. After helping the club to the Copa Sudamericana in December, since Nicolás Tagliafico’s subsequent departure, Campaña has been club captain, proving to be an exceptional on-field leader as well as a safe pair of hands.
A towering defensive midfielder for San Telmo, Alan Franco was already on the fringes of the first team dsepite his age when Independiente came calling. Few would have predicted that in the relatively short time since signing his first professional contract with the club in December 2016, the 21-year-old would become a key figure in Ariel Holan’s defence.
Retaining some of those midfield instincts on the ball, Franco is a powerful central defender, who already looks destined for bigger things. Independiente realise that too and have locked him down to a new deal that runs until 2022 complete with a $20 million release clause.
Cristian Lema || Belgrano
Belgrano’s final day collapse against Temperley saw El Pirata miss out on Copa Sudamericana football in 2019 but the efforts of Cristian Lema can’t be faulted over the course of the season. Pablo Lavallén’s side were sound defensively (for the most part) particularly in Córdoba and in addition to Lema playing a key role in that, the 27-year-old scored a mightily impressive eight goals.
Lema finishing as the club’s top scorer is telling and ahead of next season’s relegation battle, Belgrano must do everything to ensure that Puerto Madryn native remains at the club.
Germán Conti || Colón
Colón’s lanky captain looks set for a move to Europe this summer and it’s been well earned as Germán Conti has been one of the Argentinian top flight’s outstanding performers for a couple of years now. Despite his ungainly frame, Conti is a tremendous defender, who utilises his height to dominate aerially in both penalty boxes.
With over 100 appearances for Colón, the 23-year-old is ready for a step up and Benfica are reportedly prepared to pay his bargain €3.5 million release clause.
Notable mentions: Lisandro Martínez (Defensa y Justicia), Fabricio Coloccini (San Lorenzo), Leonardo Godoy (Talleres), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Kevin Mac Allister (Argentinos Juniors), Fabricio Bustos (Independiente)
Wilmar Barrios || Boca Juniors
Boca somewhat staggered over the line to their successful title defence but one of Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s consistent performers all season has been Wilmar Barrios. The Colombian took a while to establish himself at Boca but when left out, his absence in the midfield was glaring.
A bundle of ball-winning energy, Barrios protects the back four, snaps up possession and is an efficient passer to get Boca moving forward. Averaging 3 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game, the 24-year-old will head to Russia with Colombia and if he maintains form, European clubs may well come calling. Boca know the value of their man and so Wilmar will not come cheap.
Pablo Guiñazú || Talleres
The old war-horse might be pushing 40 but as Talleres secured historic Copa Libertadores qualification, Pablo Guiñazú was instrumental. Virtually ever-present in Frank Kudelka’s starting eleven, the veteran provided plenty of the hardwork and leadership that laid the foundation for the side’s success.
The former Argentina international might not get around the pitch as quickly as he once did but if you never had much pace to begin with, what difference does it make? Guiñazú ensured that Talleres were always competitive in central midfield, protected what was a well-organised defensive unit and allowed the pacier, younger players to break forward.
Notable mentions: Pol Fernández (Godoy Cruz), Pablo Pérez (Boca Juniors), Santiago Cáseres (Vélez Sarsfield), Israel Damonte (Huracán)
Cristian Pavón || Boca Juniors
A place in Jorge Sampaoli’s World Cup squad may well be Cristian Pavón’s reward for a tremendous campaign at Boca Juniors. The 22-year-old’s talent has been widely acknowledged for a long time but the moments of frustrating indecision have decreased and instead Pavón dragged Boca over the line with a string of inspirational displays.
With pace to burn, Pavón ended the season with eleven assists, the most in the Superliga and his six goals were of great importance to the title triumph too. Darío Benedetto previously said that he owes half his goals to Pavón and had the Boca number nine stayed fit, the league would have been far more straight-forward. Whether driving down the right or cutting in off the left, Pavón will cause defences problems and despite his release clause of $30 million it is likely Boca will be fending off interest in this window.
Ignacio Pussetto || Huracán
Another firmly in the shop window after a fine Superliga season is Ignacio Pussetto and the 22-year-old is a key reason why Huracán will be enjoying Copa Libertadores football in 2019. El Globo never really settled on a number nine and at times struggled for goals earlier in the campaign so Pussetto’s pace and versatility across the attack was vital.
The former Atlético de Rafaela forward was most often used off the right but is equally capable of playing on the opposite flank or up front. Nine goals and five assists have already seen links from Europe and despite qualifying for the Libertadores, El Globo may struggle to keep hold of Pussetto.
Matías Vargas || Vélez Sarsfield
There is no doubting Vélez’s ability to bring academy products through to their first team but the big test is whether those players can take the next step in their development and make a mark in Europe and for the national team. Matías Vargas still needs a little more time under Gabriel Heinze in Liniers but that hasn’t prevented the likes of Fiorentina and Lazio taking a closer look.
And that is no surprise after a breakthrough season for the 21-year-old. Ten assists (only one fewer than Pavón) and five goals were a major factor behind Vélez’s superb nine-match unbeaten to close out their campaign. Comparisons made with Eden Hazard are a little overreaching but the way in which Monito keeps the ball glued to his feet as he skips around challenges and splits defences is reminiscent of the Belgian.
Atlético Madrid may well live to regret quibbling over the price of Lautaro Martínez when in discussions with Racing Club about a year ago because as of now the $20-plus million that Inter have paid for the 20-year-old looks like a steal. No player out of the Argentinian top flight has perhaps been as exciting since Sergio Agüero departed Racing’s fierce rivals, Independiente.
An absolute thoroughbred striker, Martínez is a natural goal scorer but with his quick burst of pace, terrific technical ability and deceptive strength on the ball, there is a far greater all-round game than merely what he is capable of in the penalty area. 13 goals in 20 Superliga appearances, five in five in the Copa Libertadores and already a full Argentina international, El Toro may not be part of the World Cup plans in the end but is set for a huge future.
Santiago García || Godoy Cruz
The talent has clearly been there since Santiago García formed a dangerous attack with Abel Hernández for Uruguay’s under-20s back in 2009 and burst into the Nacional side at around the same time. However, Godoy Cruz had only really seen flashes of that until this season.
García’s 17 goals from 26 appearances made him the Superliga’s top goal scorer but it was the nine that came in the last seven games as Godoy Cruz discovered an incredible run of form that almost pushed El Tomba to the title. The club had to settle for a best-ever second placed finish and a place in the Copa Libertadores but had it been a short championship, the Mendocinos would have been celebrating a title and the goals of El Morro would have been the catalyst.