Vélez strengthen with triple swoop for Fernando Gago, Maxi Romero & Tomás Guidara

While much of the country might be focused on the Copa América, Argentina’s Superliga clubs returned to preseason training this week and Vélez Sarsfield moved swiftly to bring in three useful additions with Fernando Gago, Maxi Romero and Tomás Guidara all signing.

After a splendid sixth-placed finish last season and qualification for the Copa Sudamericana, Vélez were buoyed by manager Gabriel Heinze committing to another year in Liniers and the 41-year-old coach looks to build on his exciting, young squad ahead of a campaign full of promise.

Areas of weakness such as the number nine and right-back positions are addressed by the signings of Romero and Guidara while Gago brings a wealth of experience to benefit the youthful squad that Heinze has managed with such success over the past year.

Gago has been working his way back to fitness since suffering a recurrence of the ruptured achilles injury which has plagued the past few years of the 34-year-old’s career.

Achilles problems and a serious knee ligament injury playing for Argentina in October 2017 has seen Gago spend more time on the treatment table than on the pitch and it remains to be seen if the classy number five can still compete at this level. However, there is no doubting Gago’s quality when fit and signing a one-year deal for no fee and his wages being dependent on how much he plays, there is little downside for Vélez.

With 61 appearances for La Albiceleste and one of the few Argentina midfielders in the past decade to help get the best from Lionel Messi, Gago has been one of the finest deep-lying midfielders the country has produced only for injury to blight his career.

Those injuries disrupted a brief spell with Vélez back in 2013 but Gago still helped the club defeat Newell’s Old Boys in the 2012-13 Superfinal and his experience and understanding will be hugely beneficial to the current squad.

So too could the return of Maxi Romero, who comes back on a year-long loan from PSV looking to rediscover the form that saw the youngster move to Europe in January 2018.

In what was a desperately poor Vélez side, battling against relegation in 2017, Romero stood out and while his eighteen goals from 39 appearances may not sound remarkable it is worth noting the serious knee injury suffered for the reserves that scuppered a possible move to Arsenal and the fact that the vast majority of appearances before properly breaking into the side were as a substitute.

The form at the start of the 2017/18 season that prompted PSV to come in and pay in excess of €10 million just as Heinze was arriving at Vélez was validation of Romero’s reputation of one of Argentina’s top prospects.

With loanee Leandro Fernández, Rodrigo Salinas and even teenager Thiago Almada filling the role of the nine for Heinze at times last season, a centre forward of Romero’s qualities would be a tremendous addition.

Another area that Heinze wanted strengthening was at right-back and first choice Tomás Guidara has arrived from relegated Belgrano for a fee of around $2 million.

Sound defensively and eager to get forward, Guidara fits the bill for a Vélez full-back and at 23 years of age has room to develop under the tutelage of Heinze. Despite Belgrano’s relegation at the end of last season, the academy product impressed, averaging 2.9 tackles per game and providing an outlet on the right for El Pirata.

Departures from the Estadio José Amalfitani can’t be ruled out with Sporting CP reported to be bidding for Lucas Robertone and Matías Vargas continuing to attract interest. River Plate and Porto have both been linked with Vargas over the past week and Vélez may well lose one or both before the Superliga restart in an effort to balance the books.

However, should Heinze keep the squad together and the three latest additions prove successful, Vélez can certainly look to push on from their position last season.

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