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 nine as we crack the top ten…
Something of a late bloomer by Argentinian football terms, Ignacio Pussetto was always considered a talent but it wasn’t until the age of 22 during the 2017/18 season with Huracán that European clubs really took notice. Nine goals and five assists as El Globo secured a Copa Libertadores spot prompted Udinese to part with around $12 million and Nacho is already reproducing some of that form in Serie A.
Born in Santa Fe, Pussetto moved from local club Juventud Unida to Atlético de Rafaela in 2011 and made his professional debut two years later. In a struggling side, the young forward showed promise without really setting the league on fire and so Huracán took a punt on the 21-year-old.
A versatile forward able to play on either flank with his blistering pace or up front to utilise his height and undervalued aerial ability, Pussetto developed into a decisive match winner at the Estadio Tomas A. Duco. By improving his finishing and composure in front of goal, Pussetto went from pacy prospect in his first season to European-bound goalscorer a year later and with three goals and three assists to his name this term in Italy, it will be interesting to see what ceiling Pussetto has.
Arguably the player on this list with the most meteoric rise over the last year, Exequiel Palacios went from just another River Plate academy graduate to a full senior international and is now one of the country’s most exciting prospects. A strong pre-season was followed up by impressive showings in the Copa Argentina and the league as Palacios quickly established himself as a key component of Gallardo’s side that would go on to win the Libertadores in controversial fashion.
A versatile box-to-box midfielder with limitless energy, work rate and great technique, Palacios seems to be everywhere and is just as likely to be mucking in with defensive duties as he is making a trademark late run into the opposition box. Herein lies the excitement at Palacios’ emergence. The 20-year-old midfielder is the epitome of a modern midfielder and is exactly the type of mixed player that Argentina has struggled to produce in recent years, hence his fast-tracking to the national team.
His progress has not gone unnoticed and there are strong rumours linking him to a big money move to Real Madrid. Regardless of whether that moves goes ahead or not, Palacios certainly looks to have a big future ahead of him.
A part in Jorge Sampaoli’s ill-fated Argentina World Cup squad and a subsequent dip in form since the debacle in Russia aside, it is impossible to deny Cristian Pavón’s influence in Boca Juniors securing back-to-back league titles. With this in mind, the speed merchant has become one of world football’s most sought after young players and it seems only a matter of time before Boca cash in.
A profit that the Xeneizes would likely have always imagined when prizing Pavón away from his boyhood club Talleres in 2014, given the prodigious talent had signed professional terms at 16 and reached La T’s first team within a year. Boca didn’t rush things and wisely saw the young forward develop on loan with Colón but after biding his time, Pavón became a central figure at La Bombonera.
There were, and still are, times when Pavón seems to be playing as if with a blindfold on, as he sprints down dead-ends, but such is the 22-year-old’s pace and ability to cut in and to pose a goal threat, that his value remains huge. As Boca picked up consecutive league titles the prolific Darío Benedetto admitted “half my goals I owe to Pavón,” and with Kichan posting 15 goals and 20 assists in that time, it’s easy to see why. The price tag is high for a reason but will hopefully see Pavón test himself at the next level.
Zenit St. Petersburg
Losing both parents at a young age, being thrust into the limelight to make your international debut alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano before even kicking a ball in senior football and coming through the other side shows exactly the type of character that Emanuel Mammana is.
A natural leader – Mammana would later captain Argentina’s under-20s and help La Albiceleste lift the Sudamericano in 2015 and were it not for a serious knee injury last year there is a good chance that the 22-year-old would have been in Russia. Still making his way back to fitness with only three appearances for Russian league leaders Zenit St. Petersburg, it would be foolish to bet against Mammana rediscovering his form.
An elegant, ball-playing defender it is easy to see how the youngster was initially played in midfield but as his tactical and positional strength improved along with that leadership, a transition into the back four was logical. Gallardo used him sparingly and would initially utilise his pace as a makeshift full back but Mammana would play an important role in the first trophy of the glittering Gallardo-era. In helping River capture the Copa Sudamericana, the club ended an 18-year wait for an international trophy and Mammana became the club’s youngster-ever player to play a major final.
Adding the Copa Libertadores a year later prompted Olympique Lyonnais to snap up the defender and a solid debut year in Europe saw the French club double their money in a deal with Zenit. Hampered by injury, Mammana is waiting to truly breakout but a return to the national team this year could work as a catalyst.
It took only a handful of first time appearances at Estudiantes for some of Europe’s biggest clubs to start circling around Juan Foyth. Tottenham Hotspur eventually won the race and while the 21-year-old remains more of an able understudy to Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen within Mauricio Pochettino’s squad at present, Foyth has shown enough to suggest he will form the backbone of the defence in future years not only for Spurs but for Argentina too.
The speed of Foyth’s progression may have come as a surprise in England but it hasn’t in Argentina and specifically at Estudiantes, the club where it all began for the young defender. Initially a creative midfielder in El Pincha’s academy, it was youth coaches who spotted Foyth’s potential defensively and oversaw his transition further back.
Some of those traits are still evident as the lanky defender strides into midfield with confidence to play his way out of trouble. A good reader of the game and strong in the air, Foyth is everything demanded from the modern centre back and having made his Argentina debut with a man of the match display against Mexico back in October, Pochettino is right to claim that the young Platense has the “potential to be one of the best centre-backs in Europe.”
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…