The number of Vélez academy products on this list is testament to the fantastic work done at youth level by the club from Liniers.The current jewel in their crown is diminutive 17-year-old playmaker Thiago Almada who has broken through into the first team in the second half of 2018 with three goals and two assists from nine appearances.
Hailing from the same tough neighbourhood as Carlos Tevez, Almada has long been touted as something special due to his exploits at youth level for club and country.Almada is the archetypal pibe from the potrero with his bamboozling dribbling ability, creative flair and penchant for a defence-splitting pass.His slight stature and relative inexperience mean there is still plenty to improve but the fact he is not only holding his own but coming up with match winning contributions before his 18th birthday shows the raw talent he has in abundance.
Now he will have the showcase his skills to a wider audience at the U20 Sudamericano in January. 2019 may well be the year he truly explodes into the wider consciousness.
18/03/1999 Talleres (loan from Boca Juniors) Attacking midfield
A beautifully struck volleyed goal along with a selection of flicks and nutmegs that the Bombonera crowd hadn’t enjoyed as much since the days of Juan Román Riquelme, it was fair to say that Gonzalo Maroni revelled in his first start for Boca Juniors back in 2017. While many may crumble in the spotlight, the 18-year-old thrived in it and although chances have been hard to come by since, Maroni remains a rare talent.
Now enjoying the opportunity that a loan to Talleres brought with it, Maroni is once more impressing with two goals and an assist so far this season. However, while the inevitable Riquelme comparisons that were thrown around when the young playmaker strutted his stuff in the blue and gold of Boca, Maroni’s actual idol is Paulo Dybala.
Just like his hero, Maroni came through Instituto’s youth ranks and while Dybala made his senior debut at seventeen breaking Marío Kempes’ record as the club’s youngest goal scorer, Maroni got his first call-up at sixteen. A prodigious talent, San Lorenzo and Villarreal had already tried to prize him away when after only five appearances, Boca paid €600,000 – a sum that looks better and better value with time.
10/05/1997 San Lorenzo
With veteran Fabricio Coloccini struggling to maintain fitness, San Lorenzo have been left short defensively at times this season and Marcos Senesi has emerged as El Ciclón’s most reliable central defender. As expected, such responsibility for a 21-year-old has attracted interest and the likes of Lazio, Atalanta and Everton have all been linked with moves for the young centre back.
During what has been a difficult year in Bajo Flores with the club changing managers, Senesi has still managed to impress and with Jorge Almirón now in charge will be looking to help kick on in 2019.
As a former Argentina Under-20 captain, Senesi’s pedigree is evident and his understanding of the role clear. A good reader of the game, positionally sound and comfortable on the ball, the 21-year-old averages 2.2 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game this season as he makes the most of that anticipation to steal possession in a controlled manner. San Lorenzo will be expecting an upturn in fortune this year and Senesi will help provide a foundation to do so.
28/06/1998 Vélez Sarsfield Central midfield
Domínguez established himself in the Vélez midfield last season but flew somewhat under the radar, whilst the likes of Santiago Cáseres and Matías Vargas received the lion’s share of the praise.With the departure of Cáseres, Domínguez has stepped up out of his shadow and has arguably been the most consistent performer for a Vélez side that sit fifth in the league at the time of writing.
The 20-year-old academy product has been an ever present in the centre of the park, displaying his intelligent passing and positioning, coupled with a real energy and bite in the tackle.
Domínguez has even added more goals to his game, notching three times in his 15 appearances.Both he and midfield partner Gastón Giménez have been knocking on the door of the national team and particularly Domínguez’s emergence has coincided nicely with Argentina’s process of rejuvenation under Scaloni.The big move may not necessarily come just yet but Domínguez is definitely one to keep tabs on.
18/01/1998 Defensa y Justicia Centre back
With cash-strapped Newell’s Old Boys ensconced in the Superliga relegation mix the presence of a top quality academy product could have come in handy. Instead La Lepra look enviously at the other end of the table where Defensa y Justicia’s impressive young side continue to upset the odds and at the heart of the defence is none other than one of their own, Lisandro Martínez.
When Juan Pablo Vojvoda left his coaching role at Newell’s for his first managerial job at Defensa y Justicia he smartly took Argentina under-20 international Martínez with him and it immediately paid off. One year later that loan was made permanent for as little as $1 million and while Vojvoda has since departed Florencio Varela, Sebastián Beccacece has been left with one of the Superliga’s best defenders.
Despite his small stature, Martínez is surprisingly good in the air but it is his reading of the game and his ability on the ball that really stand out. Two goals and three assists, the pace and passing ability to play at full-back or step into midfield, Martínez has already caught the attention of Argentina’s grandes and it’s only a matter of time before the youngster moves on to possibly even bigger things.
Thanks to anyone who helped out with compiling the list but special thanks to Tom Robinson for his input and player profiles. Part III will be up shortly…