Boca Juniors have been fending off interest in Leonardo Balerdi since before the 19-year-old made his senior debut but having played only 450 minutes for the first team, Borussia Dortmund have seen enough to part with €16 million for the talented central defender.
With five appearances for Boca under his belt since a debut against Huracán in August last year, Balerdi played a bit part under Guillermo Barros Schelotto but rarely put a foot wrong when called upon and had already attracted European interest from his exploits within the club’s youth system and with Argentina.
Dortmund were among those paying close attention and ahead of the Argentina under-20s competing in the Sudamericano this month, the Bundesliga leaders moved swiftly.
“The signing of Leonardo Balerdi was a perspective transfer that was originally planned for the coming summer but has now been brought forward,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told the club’s official website.
“Leonardo is an intelligent center-back and strong in defense. He also has a good build-up and passing game. We are very glad that he has chosen us and are convinced that he will help us with his talent in the future.”
€16 million is a steep price for potential and it makes Balerdi the fourth most expensive Boca Juniors player in the club’s history but as a club Dortmund have a proven track record in taking young talent, providing opportunities and developing that skill set.
Tall and defensively astute, Balerdi joined Boca’s academy at 14 as a central midfielder and this technical quality on the ball is still evident as the San Luís native comfortably brings the ball out from the back.
A natural leader at youth level, Balerdi was part of Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina under-20s that lifted the COTIF trophy in L’Alcúdia last year and will be promptly back on a plane to Chile tomorrow ahead of the start of the Sudamericano.
It was following that triumphant run in Spain that led to Boca rejecting approaches from Barcelona and Juventus and ahead of another under-20 tournament, Dortmund may have wisely completed business before Balerdi impresses further.
In spite of the price tag, Balerdi must be allowed time but with Argentina’s defensive struggles so well documented in recent years there is suddenly a renewed optimism. With the likes of Balerdi, Juan Foyth, Nehuén Pérez and Lisandro Martínez coming through, La Albiceleste may have a brighter future than the recent failures at youth level suggest.