EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Fausto Vera on life at Argentinos Juniors, transfer speculation & Argentina aspirations

2020 – best laid plans and all that. Argentinos Juniors had just finished the Superliga season fifth and in doing so secured a place in the 2021 Copa Libertadores, midfielder Fausto Vera had emerged as a key figure for Diego Dabove’s side.

The 20-year-old was also a central figure in an Argentina under-20 side that had just won the Pre-Olympic tournament in Colombia and up next was the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Messi, Agüero, Riquelme and Tevez by claiming Olympic gold.

Then Covid-19 happened. Tokyo 2020 has become Tokyo 2021 and Argentinos Juniors along with almost every other Argentinian football club haven’t been able to kick a competitive football in over six months.

Despite this lengthy absence, Vera penned a new deal earlier this month with Los Bichos until 2023 amid transfer speculation linking the classy number five with several European clubs.

While still waiting for a date to return to action, Golazo caught up with the Argentinos Juniors and Argentina under-20 star to talk about his career to date…

How difficult has this period during the pandemic and the quarantine in Argentina been for you? It must have been a relief to get back training again.

The truth is that I spent quarantine with my family, although that was nice, I missed competing, to be training all the time and trying to improve. That was more complicated than anything else that came as a result of all this. I had to be patient but well, the most important thing is that my family and I we’re ok, so I’m happy about that.

When we chatted with Damián [Batallini] he spoke a lot about the importance of Argentinos Juniors in his development – when did you first arrive at the club?

I came to the club when I was 8 years old with a coach who took boys to trails at Argentinos Juniors. I started playing in my neighbourhood at the local club called Urquiza, in Hurlingham [Buenos Aires province] and well, I went to do my first trail and I did pretty well. I remember we were just playing a friendly and the co-ordinator was Bocha [Fernando] Batista, I played for a while and I remember he told me he wanted me to keep training at the club. Gradually I started, added more training sessions and the club were impressed. Year after year I was climbing up through the levels until I was lucky enough to get to the first team.

Why has the club’s academy been so successful?

I think it’s largely down to the coaches, all the great work that is done with the kids and young players. I think that is very important and is the basis of the success that characterises so much the club.

Which players do you admire in your position and were there any players at Argentinos who really helped you as you come through? 

I admire Sergio Busquets, Casemiro and lately in Argentinian football I watch Enzo Pérez a lot. The players who have helped me personally I remember El Lobo [Cristian] Ledesma, who I always watched when I was in the youth team and I had the opportunity to talk with several times. And then in the first team [Leonardo] Pisculichi, [Miguel] Torrén and [Gabriel] Hauche, several experienced guys that I was lucky enough to share a dressing room with and the truth is that they helped me a lot.

Argentinos performed really well last season – what was the secret to the success?

I think that the secret to success is our idea of team play, the conviction, the desire to continue to grow day by day and take it match by match.

Your time with the national team has also been hugely successful – playing at the U20 World Cup, winning gold at the Pan-American games and winning the pre-Olympic tournament for a place at the Tokyo Games – what has that meant to you?

My time away with the national team has been something amazing and so important for my career, and especially as a source of great pride of me and my family. These are special moments and they provide a wealth of experience for what comes in the future. We’re still waiting for the Olympics [postponed until 2021] and I’ll have to fight to be part of the squad

Do you speak with Adolfo [Gaich] and Alexis [Mac Allister] about their moves to Europe? Is that something that you are looking to do as soon as possible – amid the recent interest in you from CSKA, Torino and Ajax?

The truth is that I haven’t spoken with Alexis too much but yes, I talk with Adolfo – we are friends and he tells me that he is very happy and having a good time. In my case at the moment I am calm, I am happy at Argentinos Juniors. Obeviously we listen to proposals from abroad but well we have to wait and when something comes along that benefits me and the club we will see the possibility of some transfer.

With the national team you have worked with [Sebastián] Beccacece, [Lionel] Scaloni and [Fernando] Batista, what have you learned from these coaches? 

From all three what I learned is that you always have to give everything for the Argentina national team, you always have to represent the shirt well and not only be professional on the pitch but also off it. When we go away to tournaments you behave well at the hotels – they are coaches who attach great importance to that too and I find it a very good thing. From every coach you have you learn different things, I have great respect for the three of them.

What do they expect from you in your position?

What all three asked of me was more or less similar, that as a central midfielder I give order to the team. I am always well positioned, that I try to give intensity when it comes to recovering the ball and then when in possession always be an option and a solution for my teammates.

Do you have any clubs outside Argentina that you follow? Is there a league that you think would suit your style?

I try to watch quite a lot of football, I like to watch it and analyze it, I don’t follow any teams in particular but I like the top five leagues in Europe.

What are your aspirations for 2021 and the future in your career?

My aspirations for the future are to be able to continue growing as a football player. At the same time I need to enjoy something as special as football and the fact that I have the possibility to live it. Keep improving, every day have a better performance on the pitch and then be able to achieve my goals.