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…
11/10/1996 Independiente Centre back
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.
Nicolás González 06/04/1998 VfB Stuttgart Forward
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.
29/03/1999 Atlanta United Attacking midfield
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.
25/02/1997 Villarreal Defensive midfield
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.
09/02/1996 Zenit St. Petersburg Striker
From his River Plate debut at the age of 17 to his status now as a €15 million striker with Zenit Saint Petersburg, Sebastián Driussi has already been through a number of peaks and troughs in his young career.
The prolific youngster’s exploits within River’s illustrious academy and for various Argentina youth sides had always earmarked Driussi for greatness but failing to break into the first team as Marcelo Gallardo’s versatile squad forward almost saw El León shipped out on loan before things fell into place.
Paired up front with Lucas Alario, five goals from his first 63 appearances suddenly transformed into a sensational 20 in 35 during the 2016/17 season and this prompted big spending Zenit to swoop. Tasked to study Luis Suárez by Gallardo his tigerish appetite for the ball, positional awareness, intelligent movement and goal scoring instincts often exhibited shades of the Uruguayan and while Russia hasn’t proved an easy place to settle, Driussi remains a great talent.
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…