By Peter Coates
It was of little surprise to see Boca Juniors lift the Copa Diego Maradona title in January, but their opponents in the final came as something of a shock. Few would have backed Banfield when football got back underway in the second half of 2020 to come within a penalty shootout of adding to their solitary top-flight honor.
Despite coming up just short in this instance, Banfield have been the untold success story in Argentina over the past six months. A minimal budget during a period when Argentinian clubs have had to tighten purse strings even further, El Taladro have been forced to lean on their academy with spectacular results.
Very few sides across South America can compare to Banfield when it comes to giving first team minutes to players from their own academy. From the 28 players in the current senior squad, only seven didn’t feature for the club at some level of youth football.
Manager Javier Sanguinetti, himself a club product prior to his debut in 1991, deserves enormous credit, stepping up from his role as assistant after the legendary Julio César Falcioni left. But while Sanguinetti and a number of players impressed in their run to the cup final, it was the midfield engine room that really caught the eye.