Premature moves to Europe are all too common for Argentina’s young players but while many make the move with little first team experience under their belt, few could argue that Germán Conti has not earned his €3.5 million transfer to Benfica.
Colón’s captain and defensive cornerstone has been linked with a move away from Santa Fe for at least a year and after racking up well in excess of 100 appearances, Conti makes the logical step up to European football.
After completing a medical in Lisbon this week, Conti signed a five-year deal with Benfica, whose run of four consecutive Liga NOS titles was ended this season, finishing runners-up behind Porto.
“Benfica is a very big club that has given me the opportunity to play in Europe. I am very grateful. I know it is going to demand a lot every day and I hope to be up to the task,” Conti told the club’s website.
Sabe tudo às 20h45 na BTV e no Site Oficial. pic.twitter.com/eICQS7TvNV
— SL Benfica (@SLBenfica) May 25, 2018
Benfica will not only be looking to wrestle back superiority from Porto but will be playing Champions League football once more. A prospect which excites Conti, who had only ever played in the Copa Sudamericana with Colón.
“The Champions League is a dream for all players. Not everyone has the opportunity to play. I am privileged and I hope to take this opportunity.
“The Stadium is incredible. It’s a dream to play here, I can’t wait to play with the stadium full and to feel the great atmosphere,” Conti stated.
Benfica exploiting Conti’s outrageously low release clause of €3.5 million should have alerted far more suitors and it wasn’t until the last minute that Boca Juniors reportedly showed interest. Lisandro Magallán heading to Ajax left the Superliga champions in the market for a central defender and Conti was an option for Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Certainly a move to one of Argentine football’s grandes would be a familiar route for young players but at 23, Conti seems ready to leap straight to Europe.
“I prioritized the opportunity to come to Europe before other offers because Benfica is a huge club and I was happy that they had noticed me.
“My idea is to earn a place here, not to return on loan to Boca. Perhaps their call came late, I had already given my word to Benfica,” Conti explained addressing those late rumours.
Colón’s relative success in recent seasons has been built on the side’s ability to defend well and keep clean sheets so the value of Conti should come as no real surprise. The lanky central defender made his debut back in 2013 after coming through the academy before helping El Sabalero secure promotion back to the top flight and has since been a regular in the side’s back line.
Despite his tall, ungainly frame, Conti has been has been consistently sound in either a back-three or back-four, showing great leadership and organisational qualities and with his height, the 23-year-old is dominate aerially in both penalty boxes — for two seasons now, no player has made more clearances in Argentina’s top flight.
Conti will link up with compatriots Franco Cervi and Eduardo Salvio at his new club and mentioned both at his unveiling.
“I played against Cervi when he was at Rosario Central. He is a great player, like Salvio who will have the chance to play in a World Cup – not everyone can do that.
“Many Argentines have played here, some great names, who played very well here. I hope to be like them, that in the future they remember me as someone who left their mark.”
Successfully making that step is always a test for any player coming from Argentina but Conti looks as well placed as any defender to do that. There are understandably questions that El Flaco must answer but should he do that in Portugal, Argentina’s dearth of central defensive options, mean that Conti may yet follow Salvio’s example and wear the Albiceleste.