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 eight: 15 to 11…
Already an Argentina international after a debut against Guatemala in September only a broken metatarsal spoiled the end of 2018 for Alan Franco. The Independiente defender emerged as one of the Superliga’s top centre backs and with good reason El Rojo tied Franco down to a new deal complete with a $20 million release clause as European clubs circled.
Originally a defensive midfielder, Independiente snapped up the teenager from lower league Buenos Aires outfit San Telmo in 2016 and it was here that Franco was converted to his current position. Few would have expected such a quick rise to one of Ariel Holan’s key first team players but after Nicolás Figal was hit with a doping suspension, Franco came into the side and has never looked back.
Dominant aerially and quick in the tackle, Franco is a reliable first pass out from the back in Holan’s attractive Independiente side and with the youngster in the back line it was no surprise to see El Rojo lift the Copa Sudamericana last year.
Coming from the club that produced the likes of Fernando Redondo and Diego Maradona, for Nicolás González to fetch Argentinos Juniors a club record transfer fee of €8.5 million when VfB Stuttgart swooped last summer suggests the 20-year-old is a genuine talent.
Having joined Los Bichos at under-15 level, González worked his way up and was handed a senior debut by Gabriel Heinze in 2016, scoring the decisive goal against Gimnasia de Jujuy to seal promotion back to the top flight. Seven goals on that return to the Superliga proved to be a breakthrough for the forward and as Argentinos finished a comfortable twelfth.
Since the sale of González, the Paternal club have struggled and the youngsters ability to stretch play and get behind has certainly been missed. Quick, alert in the penalty area and flexible enough to play across the frontline, González has all the attributes to make it in one of Europe’s top leagues.
Atlanta United supporters might still be wondering what all the fuss was about after the ambitious MLS club pulled off an astonishing coup to sign Ezequiel Barco from Independiente for a record breaking $15 million fee. But there should be no doubt that the Five Stripes signed one of South American football’s most exciting prospects.
Injury and rumoured off-field problems have made a first season in Atlanta a testing one for Barco but the youngster still played a part in Tata Martino’s side lifting the title. Now with Miguel Almirón gone, the 19-year-old will be aiming to step into the spotlight and produce the level of performances that made him a star at Independiente.
Quick feet, incisive passing, a penchant for nutmegs and a strong mentality as proven by the teenager slotting away the decisive penalty at the Maracaná when Independiente won the Copa Sudamericana, Barco’s impact for El Rojo from the moment Diego Milito handed him his debut was immediate. Inconsistency, a lack of end product and at times guilty of over complicating things, it’s easy to be critical of Barco but still only 19, there remains huge potential.
Cáseres was quietly one of the breakthrough players in last season’s Primera and was astutely snapped up by Villarreal in the summer for a fee in the region of €8.5 million. A promising start to life in Spain was brought to a halt with an injury against Girona but the 21-year-old defensive midfielder has bounced back strongly to pick up where he left off.
A number 5 in the classic Argentinian mould, Cáseres is strong in the tackle and boasts great defensive positioning but also uses the ball extremely well at the base of midfield. In a struggling Vélez side he averaged 87.6% pass completion and has improved further on that since his move with 91% in La Liga and 95% in the Europa League. Had it not been for his untimely injury he surely would have been in the running for a national team call up and is certainly seen as someone who should be challenging for a place anchoring the Selección midfield in the near future.