Argentinians on the move? A look at all the possible European transfers involving Argentinian players

By Amit Menon

With all top European leagues coming to an end for the 2019-20 season, this will be an unprecedented transfer window with clubs being challenged financially. The potential impact could see a number of bargains and innovative deals in an attempt to attract and retain the right talent. 

The pandemic has already seen changes to the length of the transfer window and the five top European leagues will now be able to do business into October.

  • English Premier League – July 27th to October 5th 2020  

  • Spanish La Liga   – Aug 4th to October 5th 2020 

  • Italian Serie A – Sept 1st to October 5th 2020 

  • French Ligue1 – June to September 1st 2020 

  • German Bundesliga – July 1st to October 5th 2020 

Argentinian players will be among those on the move and so I take a look at those close to the national team who have either moved already or perhaps could do with a move. In order to do this, I have categorised into four sections:

  • Completed – already signed in this window

  • Necessity – need a move in order to progress

  • Desirable – a transfer could prove beneficial

  • Fantasy – unlikely transfers

Completed

Leonardo Balerdi (Dortmund to Marseille on loan)

While Balerdi got an early big break to Europe, it has been a case of no show at Borussia Dortmund after his €15 million move last year. Rather than be a benchwarmer the 21yr old has now secured a loan to Marseille which is the best move for him in given circumstances. This is a good chance for redemption for Argentina’s most promising talent for the left centre-back role. Fellow Argentine Darío Benedetto & Portuguese coach Villas Boas can help Balerdi settle fast.

Facundo Medina (Talleres to Lens) 

Medina grabbed the spotlight with some solid displays in the Argentine youth teams and landed a move from Argentine Primera club Talleres to Ligue 1 with newly promoted RC Lens. A great bargain at $4 million & has all the ingredients to be a top modern left center-back with pace & ball playing capabilities. 

Adolfo Gaich (San Lorenzo to CSKA Moscow)

The 21-year-old forward has been the star of the Argentine youth teams which won gold at the Pan American games and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. While Gaich had interest from top clubs like AC Milan, Inter Milan & Leeds United, he has made the somewhat left field choice and landed at CSKA Moscow in a €8.5 million deal . An optimistic view is that Gaich uses CSKA as a stepping stone and cracks a top European club after a strong showing in the Europa League and Olympics . 

Emanuel Mammana (Zenit to Sochi on loan)

It has been a painful downslide for one of Argentina’s former brightest prospects. Four or five years back, Mammana was expected to be the best fix for Argentina’s defensive woes but a move to the Russian league coupled with two major knee injuries has totally derailed the former River Plate defender’s career. A loan from Zenit to mid-table Russian club FC Sochi marks the latest step in Mammana’s comeback but at only 24, you wonder whether a return to River might be most beneficial.

Necessity

Emiliano Martínez (Arsenal)

After being virtually incognito for a decade, Emiliano Martínez truly arrived this season. After injury to Bernd Leno, Martínez made ten appearances and won over fans and football pundits alike with his solidity, confidence and ball distribution. Potentially the complete goal keeping package that Argentina lacks, Martínez’s challenge will be having to compete with number one choice Leno once the new season starts. Since Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni will want his starting goalkeeper to be getting consistent playing time, Martínez should capitalise on this good form and look for a move if not considered Arsenal’s number one. Best case is Martínez surpassing Leno at Arsenal but if not Leeds, Chelsea or even Sheffield United could provide decent Premier League alternatives.

Juan Foyth (Tottenham Hotspur)

Among the new defensive Argentine talent, Foyth has made good progress and was fortunate in having Mauricio Pochettino to help him blossom. With Jose Mourinho now at the helm and clearly looking beyond Foyth, it is imperative for him to find a new club. The best fit for this elegant ball playing defender is Leeds United and fellow Argentine Marcelon Bielsa can weed out the occasional recklessness that needs to be cleaned up in Foyth’s game to make him a world class centre-back. The timing is just right for this £15 million target as Leeds stand to lose out on Brighton loanee Ben White.

Gonzalo Montiel (River Plate)

Right-back Montiel is arguably the strongest candidate in Argentina’s weakest position. The 23 year-old River Plate starlet has serious suitors in West Ham, Schalke & Leeds. He is likely to follow Pablo Zabaleta’s footsteps as West Ham are in pole position to nab him. 20% of player ownership is with a third party and the Hammers need to iron out this complexity in transfer negotiation.

Emiliano Buendía (Norwich)

Norwich’s best player last season despite relegation, it is natural that Buendía attracts Premier League interest. Leeds seem front runners while a number of suitors including Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Everton and clubs in Spain in need of a creative midfield force can snap him up in the £20 million range.

Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City)

Fast falling down Pep Guardiola’s pecking order, Manchester City have already completed the purchase of central defender Nathan Ake. Next season it would appear likely that ‘The General’ will see very little playing time if he remains at the Etihad. Yet Otamendi remains important to Argentina’s defence while the younger players settle and so needs a club where he will still be playing. A move to Napoli as part of a transfer for Kalidou Koulibaly looks possible while a return to former clubs Valencia or even Porto may be attractive.

Lucas Martínez Quarta (River Plate) 

Consistently strong displays with River Plate and an impressive national team debut will make Martínez Quarta key to Lionel Scaloni’s defence. Hence it is now time to shift gears and get tested in Europe’s top leagues. Leeds, Inter Milan, Real Betis and Valencia are strong candidates and the 24-year-old appears likely to move continents in this transfer season. River Plate will need to come down on the €20 million release clause as his contract ends in 2021. Between Foyth & Martínez Quarta – one of them landing with the legendary Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds will be a blessing for Argentina’s future defence. 

Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese)

Anyone who has seen De Paul’s performances for Udinese this season will find it a mystery how the midfielder has not already been poached by Europe’s top guns. A great combination of midfield industry and creativity, the 26-year-old deserves a top club now while entering the peak of powers. Juventus, Inter Milan and Napoli are all scouting him and at €30 million will be a good buy.

Matías Vargas (Espanyol)

What looked a perfect European move has a turned out to be a disaster. Vargas had a forgettable debut season with Espanyol who were eventually relegated from La Liga. A loan to remain in the top flight with a mid-tier club would be ideal as Vargas’ talent is deserving of more than the Segunda and Argentina still look for attacking options on the left side of midfield. If former Atlético Madrid assistant Germán Burgos was to take over at a club like Aláves, it would seem an excellent candidate. Vargas needs to stay afloat in Europes top league to force his way into Argentina’s under-23 Olympic team. 

Jonathan Silva (Leganés) 

Something of a journeyman in Europe for the last five years, Silva had a decent season at Leganés despite the club’s eventual relegation from La Liga. Good full backs are in short supply for Argentina and the 26-year-old has looked as though he could at least be a back up to Nicolás Tagliafico in the short term. There has been speculation with a move to Leeds which seems more media driven because of fellow Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa however, a transfer to any of the mid tier La Liga clubs will help Jonathan improve consistency.

Paolo Gazzaniga (Tottenham Hotspur)

At 28 years old & for his talent, Gazzaniga should be playing as a starter in the Premier League. He did commendably during the first half of the season at Spurs when Hugo Lloris was injured and with Mauricio Pochettino gone, Gazzaniga could take the opportunity to move on. Paolo will gain more playing time (Southampton where he had an earlier career loan could be a good candidate) and can also help Jose Mourinho raise some funds for Spurs new season. He has the caliber to be in top three for Argentina (behind Emiliano Martínez and Juan Musso) and shouldn’t rot on the Spurs bench. 

Desirable 

Nicolás Tagliafico (Ajax)

One of Ajax’s top stars and the only confirmed starter in Argentina’s defence today yet there is a sense that if Tagliafico wants to be considered one of the best left backs in world football, he needs to move. Clubs like Chelsea and Atlético Madrid are reportedly interested and the chance to play in a more demanding league and maintain the same level of performance will certainly enhance Tagliafico’s reputation.

Juan Musso (Udinese)

14 clean sheets this season in a struggling club in Serie A is a strong resume . Musso has grown from strength to strength in his two seasons with Udinese and the 26-year-old is more than ready for a big club. While Atlético Madrid, Inter and Napoli have made enquiries, Musso should wait for the right club where he is guaranteed the Number one spot and Champions League level action. A dream move would be replacing Samir Handanović at Inter or Jan Oblak at Atlético but this looks unlikely in this transfer window. He should not move to a mid tier club at this stage.

Esequiel Barco (Atlanta United)

This highly talented attacking midfielder is at somewhat of a career crossroads and the next 1-2 years will determine the impact he can make for Argentina.  Now 21 and with the move to Atlanta not proving successful to date, the youngster needs to plot his move to Europe as Miguel Almirón managed to do last year. For now there doesn’t appear to be a serious European  suitor – a price tag around $25 million & Atlanta in no hurry to cash in on him makes a move difficult. The best case is to increase his value with a masterclass in the upcoming MLS season & peak with a stupendous performance at the 2021 Olympics. His target should then be a top 5 club in Serie A, Ligue 1, La Liga or even Portuguese Liga NOS.

Nicolás González (VfB Stuttgart)

Safe to say that González is one of Lionel Scaloni’s favourites with the pace & width that he offers in attack. With 14 goals he has helped VfB Stuttgart back to the Bundesliga and should now upgrade to a bigger club. AC Milan, Atalanta, Leeds, Napoli and Dortmund have shown genuine interest and Nico will be a solid bargain at €20 million. 

Matías Zaracho (Racing Club)

Had the Olympics gone ahead as planned, Zaracho could have made a big splash as Argentina’s under-23 midfield motor. Already a regular with Racing Club, the 22-year-old is a $20 million target for clubs like Leeds, AC Milan and Atlético Madrid. Like the aforementioned Buendía, Zaracho could be a worthy successor to Pablo Hernández in Leeds’ midfield.

Nehuén Pérez (Atlético Madrid)

A smart loan move last season to Famalicão in Liga NOS last season proved hugely beneficial for Pérez with the Atlético Madrid defender getting regular playing time and backing it up with solid displays. While another year in Portugal could be good, a return to Atlético under Diego Simeone’s tutelage battling for a starting spot with José Giménez and Stefan Savić would be a better next step for Pérez.

Marcos Senesi (Feyenoord)

A strong season at Feyenoord as a dependable left sided centre-back, Senesi helped the Dutch club finish third before the premature end to the campaign. Already talked about in connection with a move, the 23-year-old can fast track his development by moving to La Liga or the Premier League. Everton, Sevilla and Leeds have all expressed an interest and Feyenoord are looking at a £18 million deal.

Nahuel Bustos (Talleres)

Clearly the standout young striker in the Argentine top flight (in addition to Gaich, who has earned his move to CSKA), Bustos has been playing well for Talleres and broken into the Argentina under-23 side. Despite initial interest from AC Milan and Roma, it is still too early for the 22-year-old to lead the attack for a top club. However, as an understudy to a top striker like Edin Džeko at Roma it could be an astute move.

Fausto Vera (Argentinos Juniors)  

Vera has steadily grown in Argentina’s youth system under Fernando Batista and was among the top three players in the Pre-Olympic tournament that the under-23s won last January. There has been some buzz around Ajax and CSKA Moscow making moves but it may make more sense for Vera to wait one more season with Argentinos Juniors before moving to a big club like Ajax. The 20-year-old has stated that Argentinos are open to sell and so selecting the right club will be important – jumping prematurely to the wrong club in Europe could hinder his development.  

Agustín Almendra (Boca Juniors) 

An elegant defensive midfielder, Almendra is already playing for Argentine champions Boca Juniors. Early on he grabbed attention and reported interest from top clubs like Man City and Barcelona but that has slowed and interested suitors now seem to be from MLS in the form of Inter Miami and LA Galaxy. Still only 20, Almendra shouldn’t make the mistake of leaving for MLS and should focus on getting more minutes with Boca in the coming season.

Lucas Robertone (Vélez Sarsfield)

Gabriel Heinze’s Vélez Sarsfield adventure brought through some great talent. Matías Vargas, Nicolás Dominguez and Santiago Cáseres managed to move on leaving central midfielder Robertone still at Vélez. There has been some interest from Sporting Lisbon and Celta Vigo and there is a sense that without moving to one of Europe’s top leagues, Robertone will stagnate and slowly be eclipsed by new talent like Fausto Vera and Agustín Almendra.

Gerónimo Rulli (Real Sociedad)

While he has fallen below Emiliano Martínez, Juan Musso, Esteban Andrada, Franco Armani , Agustín Marchesin and Paulo Gazzaniga in Lionel Scaloni’s reportcard,  Ruilli was at one time considered Argentina’s best goalkeeping bet after Sergio Romero. Last season he did well as a loanee with Montpellier in Ligue 1 and now back at Real Sociedad, where he is clearly not welcome, Rulli must find a new club. Real Betis, Valladolid and Granada could be immediate options. 

Sebastian Driussi (Zenit St. Petersburg)

Seen as a bright talent 3-4 years back, Driussi has not been able to capitalise on those early positive reviews. At 24 and having played three good seasons at Russian Premier League champions Zenit,  Driussi needs to pack bags to a stronger European league to even attempt to stake a claim for a national team role.

Fantasy 

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

The German blitzkrieg in Lisbon has opened up the once blasphemous possibility of Messi leaving Barcelona. A transfer this season may not be commercially viable due to his astronomical contract and for now perhaps the exits of Quique Setién and Eric Abidal’s will be viewed as a first step in right direction for Barca. Having said Messi’s contract expires next summer and two clubs currently buzzing in transfer circles are Manchester City and Inter Milan. While a reunion with Pep Guardiola sounds nostalgic, the physically gruelling Premier League at 34+ years may not be the best retirement plan and so perhaps Inter could provide an alternative swan-song. If Ronald Koeman manages to fix Barça’s issues in the short term, it remains more likely that Messi remains – his deep-rooted Blaugrana loyalty and wish to have minimal disturbances in 2022 in the build-up to the elusive World Cup.

Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan)

In a nutshell, it is difficult to see Lautaro moving to Barcelona in this window. Barça just wont be able to spend that amount of money and following the COVID break in Serie A El Toro’s form has also dipped.  

Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain)

While there is no reported interest now, Paredes should be considered more than a backup to Marco Verratti at Paris Saint-Germain. Arguably the most important player in Lionel Scaloni’s system after Lionel Messi, the 26-year-old clearly should play more at club level. It might be worthwhile for Paredes to abandon the riches of PSG & return to Serie A where he can be the midfield pivot with his silky technique. 

Thiago Almada (Vélez Sarsfield)

Already burdened with the tag of the ‘new Messi’ and inflated media buzz linking him to Manchester City, Manchester United, and Leeds, Almada has settled well at Vélez and has all the ingredients to be Argentina’s future attacking midfield force. While a move this season appears doubtful, every Argentine fan will be anticipating his European switch and it’s important he joins a top five club with an eye for the future. At this point breaking into Fernando Batista’s youth set up is the first hurdle and he will compete with the likes of Esequiel Barco and Matías Vargas.

Amit Menon is based in Bangalore, India & is a proud Argentine football fan for the last 35 years. Pursuing a corporate professional career ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/amitmenon/ ), this is his debut moonlighting attempt on pursuing his original passion of the Albiceleste national team . You can find him on Twitter here @AmitMenon1325