Best under-23 players from Copa Diego Maradona

Boca Juniors picked up their 70th title lifting the Copa Diego Maradona on Sunday night and while the short-form tournament had its critics it proved a great platform for many talented young players. 

We take a look at those who impressed – players all 23 or younger.

GOALKEEPER

Banfield’s Mauricio Arboleda was probably the Copa’s standout – no goalkeeper made more saves than the Colombian (38) as the Taladro finished runners-up

*But* at 24, Arboleda just misses out on this list….

The real breakout star has been Lautaro Morales. Perhaps his best performances have come in the #CopaSudamericana which the Granate could win on Saturday 

Yet 4.37 saves per 90 minutes in the Copa DM still ranks favourably & at 21 Morales looks a real talent

No under-23 goalkeeper made more saves than Ramiro Macagno (35), on loan at Newell’s Old Boys from Atlético de Rafaela. A former U20 international in 2017, the 23-year-old stepped in after injury to Alan Aguerre

Facundo Cambeses looked set to be Argentina’s GK at the Olympics & his loan at Huracán was a good opportunity for 1st team football

And another former Argentina youth international Joaquín Blázquez took the chance too. 4 appearances for Talleres & 2 clean sheets showed promise 

RIGHT-BACK

It’s surely only a matter of time before Alex Vigo leaves Colón. The 21-year-old further cemented himself as one of the top RBs in Argentina

5.03 Interceptions

3.63 crosses 

2.89 dribbles

2.14 clearances

2.33 progressive runs

Banfield’s success was built on academy products & Emanuel Coronel was among those to shine.  The 23-yr-old played all 12 games & was a key part of the back four 

5.73 interceptions per 90 highlight defensive attributes (3rd in total among U23s) 

Lanús keep churning out exciting young players & Brian Aguirre (20) looks like another. Quick, dynamic & eager to get forward

On loan from Quilmes, Raúl Lozano (23) boosted Huracán & looked at home in the top flight

CENTRE BACK

Not yet Boca’s starting CB but Gastón Ávila showed why he’s considered one of the top talents. Putting the knee injury suffered after joining from Central in 2019 behind him, the 19-year-old impressed

8.02 interceptions (5th)

2.98 clearances

The wheels seem to fall off for San Lorenzo during the Copa but before that Federico Gattoni stepped up to the first team & looked the business

Good in the air, a vocal organiser & decent with the ball at his feet. A worthy successor to Senesi in Bajo Flores

The physical presence of Alexis Maldonado (23) at the heart of Banfield’s defence was vital: highest % of duels won among U23s

Atlético Tucumán fell away badly but Mauro Osores (23) impressed. El Decano always strong in the air, Osores will be important for Zielinski’s successor

Other centre backs to keep an eye on

Franco Calderón (22) – Unión

Nazareno Colombo (21) – Estudiantes

Sergio Barreto (21) – Independiente 

Mateo Carabajal (23) – Arsenal

LEFT BACK

A move to Timbers already secured Claudio Bravo (23) has been a consistent performer for a number of years & it almost ended in a title

Secure defensively & a good ball winner Bravo isn’t the most dangerous wide player but contributes well offensively

Kily González was always likely to lean on his youth talents & Lautaro Blanco (21) made the LB spot his own at Central. No U23 player made more crosses

Gimnasia’s Matias Melluso (22) produced some of his best performances in the Copa. Strong defensively

Alexander Bernabei produced his best in the #CopaSudamericana but the naturally attacking wide player continues to grow into the LB role

The Argentina U20 international Francisco Ortega (21) is now getting his chance in the Vélez first team

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

Estudiantes were pretty awful in the Copa but David Ayala (18) was without doubt one of the stars

No player in the league made more interceptions (10.32 per 90 mins) & Ayala already has the look of a future Argentina number 5

One of the teams of the tournament, Talleres only lost once & though the team is full of young talent Federico Navarro stood out

A terrific ball winner (9.1 recoveries per 90) & efficient passer (84.5% accuracy)

In addition…

The Colombian Yéiler Goez (21) has proved a success on loan at Colón

The latest off the conveyor belt at Argentinos Juniors Franco Ibarra (19)

The classy Enzo Fernández (20) has helped Defensa y Justicia to the #Sudamericana final

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Banfield had a number of standouts but Martín Payero (22) really excelled. Driving forward with tremendous energy, Payero was everywhere

6 Assists (1st)

16 smart passes (2nd)

Most progressive runs

Most fouled

Most shots outside area

And you can’t not mention Payero’s midfield partner Guiliano Galoppo (21). The revelation of the Copa.

5 goals. Eager to get forward into the penalty area & a real threat in the air. Truly box-to-box

Boca Juniors’ priority was the #CopaLibertadores but Alan Varela’s (19) four appearances in the Copa Diego Maradona suggests the Xeneizes have another jewel in midfield

With 1 goal & 2 assists Santiago Hezze (19) showed why he’s one of Huracán’s best young players

Midfield reasons for both sides of Rosario to be happy too

After his debut in 2019 Rodrigo Villagra (19) now appears to be ready for his place in the starting eleven for Central

And Juan Sforza stepped up to make his Newell’s debut & backed up why he’s considered one of Argentina’s brightest 

Further midfield/attacking midfielders of interest

Facundo Farías (18) Colón

Valentin Burgoa (20) Godoy Cruz

Kevin Zenón (19) Unión 

Agustin Mulet (20) Vélez

WIDE PLAYERS

Arguably no player enhanced their reputation more than Alan Velasco (18). From potential to reality in the space of a couple of months. The talent’s been clear for a while but 5 goals, including a match winning brace vs River mean he’s now the hottest thing in Argentina

Not yet getting the exposure of Velasco, Exequiel Zeballos (18) in his 4 appearances showed why Boca are right to be excited

11.03 dribbles per 90, Zeballos is poised to push for a starting role at La Bombonera soon

Serious injury ended Pancho Gonzalez’s (19) Copa but Newell’s have a real prospect

Only goals were lacking from a bright debut at Central for Pupi Ferreyra (18)

They just keep coming at Lanús & Franco Orozco (19) is next

Cutting in off the right Vélez’s Luca Orellano (20) has been excellent.

STRIKERS

Impressive in Central’s reserves for a while Alan Marinelli (21) stepped up in the Copa Diego Maradona

5 goals in 7 appearances

No player more accurate – 75% shots on target

Marinelli looks to be keeping his place up top

One of Marcelo Gallardo’s go-to guys off the bench at present Federico Girotti (21) may not have to wait long for a more prominent role at River Plate

2 goals scored in 163 minutes

1.1 goals per 90 (tournament high)

Other strikers to catch the eye

Alexander Díaz (20) – San Lorenzo

Tomás Badaloni (20) – Godoy Cruz

Abel Argañaraz (22) – Central Córdoba

Mauro Luna Diale (21) – Unión

DISCLAIMER

Clearly there are other U23 players that could be included but the likes of Pedro De La Vega, Julián Álvarez and Fausto Vera didn’t really use the Copa Diego Maradona to raise their profiles