If you missed it already, the countdown of the new Golazo 50 is already well underway so you can catch up here…
If you don’t know what this is, it is the annual look at the 50 best young players in Argentina. All the information about the list is in the first part so let’s get on with part seven: 20 to 16…
Out to prove himself once more, Maxi Romero is yet to show any real sign of his talent since moving to Dutch giants PSV over a year ago. Injury has blighted his time in the Netherlands and hindered any progress but given a serious knee injury at 16 years of age scuppered a move to Arsenal, the 20-year-old is well used to battling back from adversity.
At that point Romero was just a prodigious academy star with no senior experience but after recovering to claim a place in the Vélez starting eleven, the teen centre forward backed up all the hype. Nine goals from 40 appearances in a then struggling side a decent return for a young striker but it was Romero’s all-round ability and somewhat out of fashion characteristics that earmarked him for more.
Big, strong and powerful, Romero is a classic number nine and with his decent back to goal build-up play and strong aerial presence, El Tigre gives defenders a real handful. A strong penalty box finisher off both feet with a decent turn of pace and good movement, Romero now needs to bring this to the Eredivisie. If he doesn’t light up the Sudamericano for Argentina under-20s first.
Time will tell if Leonardo Balerdi is as good as many believe but when Borussia Dortmund stumped up €16 million, making the 19-year-old the fourth most expensive Boca player in the club’s history after playing only 450 minutes of senior football, the assumption can only be that Argentina have a potentially elite level central defender.
Certainly in those five appearances for Boca since his debut last August, Balerdi has looked the part and even before that Los Xeneizes were fending off interest from Barcelona after the defender had shone for the Argentina under-20s in lifting the COTIF tournament in L’Alcúdia.
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, the Albiceleste under-20s will once more be looking to Balerdi for inspiration at the Sudamericano and while Dortmund have paid a hefty fee for such inexperience, moving swiftly might prove to be a masterstroke.
For several years Argentina’s inadequate midfield was built of defensive fives and attacking tens with little in between and to little surprise it was an imbalanced mess. As Lionel Scaloni shepherds in a new era, it seems the Albicelete’s youth have been paying attention and Racing Club’s Matías Zaracho is another of the new breed of energetic midfield runners able to link play.
Only a late injury withdrawal prevented Zaracho making his Argentina bow under Scaloni in November after his fine club form was rewarded with a place in the squad to play Mexico. However, it is only a matter of time before the 20-year-old, who has European scouts regularly visiting the Cilindro, gets another shot.
A regular in Eduardo Coudet’s dynamic league leaders, Zaracho drives forward to provide a penalty box threat but his trickery, eye for a pass and terrific engine allows the entire team to attack at pace. Atlético Madrid are already among the midfielder’s admirers and after dazzling in the Copa Libertadores, if Zaracho picks up a Superliga winners’ medal in May then one of Europe’s top leagues will be the natural next step.
Were it not for that humbling 6-1 defeat to Spain, Fabricio Bustos may well have been on the plane to Russia. Doubts crept into Jorge Sampaoli’s mind and the Independiente defender paid the price for what was a horribly disjointed team performance picked apart by a rampant Spanish attack.
It was tough on Bustos, who appeared to have played himself into being a strong contender for Argentina’s right-back role and while his club form dipped at around the same time, the 22-year-old remains a long term option for the Albiceleste.
Sampaoli was a big fan of Ariel Holan’s Copa Sudamericana winning Independiente side and Bustos was central to that. Quick, hard working and with an intensity that is at times exhausting even to watch, El Tractor has been an almost indefatigable presence down El Rojo’s right for the past two years and while his attacking instincts can at times allow for defensive lapses, Bustos’ pace usually bails him out. Local rival Renzo Saravia has deservedly nipped ahead in Argentina’s pecking order but Independiente’s dynamo may well make a return.
Easily one of the most entertaining players to watch in the Primera, Monito’s eye-catching performances for Vélez over the last 18 months were rightly rewarded with a debut for Scaloni’s new look national team. From his starting position on the left flank Vargas uses his excellent close control and balance to dribble infield and unleash a trademark right footed curler or slip an eye-of-the-needle through ball.
Vargas has been an ever present in the Heinze revolution at Vélez and contributed eight league goals in 2018 as El Fortín have shot up the table. By no means the finished article yet, Vargas is nevertheless the player everyone looks to provide the spark that can inspire his team and last season finished up with the second most assists in the league. Comparisons to Eden Hazard may be somewhat fanciful but Vargas is one to watch and will certainly be on plenty of clubs’ shopping lists in the summer.
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…