GOLAZO 50: Argentina’s best young players [50-41]

The sixth edition of the Golazo 50 is here! Who will follow in the footsteps of Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso, Lautaro Martínez and Cristian Romero?

To be eligible for the list, the players simply need to be born on or after January 1st 199(they would all have been eligible to play if there had been an Olympic tournament in 2022).

There is clearly huge room for debate. The player’s ability and potential is taken into account BUT that is also balanced with what the player may have achieved in senior football, whether they have represented Argentina at some level or made the successful transition to another league. The idea of compiling the list every year is to see that progression from perhaps a talented 17-year-old with little first team experience to hopefully an Argentina regular by the age of 23. In other words, there are plenty of players who missed out on the 50 due to perhaps lacking experience but who have a far higher ceiling than some of those players at the top end of the age range.

This will be all be discussed in our annual podcast to accompany this list once the entire 50 has been revealed. So if a young player you think warranted a spot isn’t here you can be sure he was on our incredibly long list and was subject of much debate.

From an initial list of well over 100, Peter and Tom whittled it down and this is the Golazo 50 2022….

50. Nicolás Fernández Mercau​​
Left Wing Back
New Entry

The first of two Elche left backs on the list, Fernández Mercau earned the move to Spain after establishing himself as a starter for San Lorenzo over the past 18 months.  Good going forward and solid defensively, the 22-year-old is a versatile operator who can fill in at a number of positions on the left-hand side of the pitch. He’s settled in well in the Costa Blanca and will hope to help Elche climb off the foot of the table.

49. Alejo Véliz 
Rosario Central
Centre forward
New Entry

The upside of a club finding itself a little cash-strapped is the opportunities for youth to flourish and Rosario Central certainly had plenty of promising appearances. 19-year-old centre-forward Alejo Véliz was one such example with the powerful number nine ending the LPF campaign as the leading scorer with six goals. A clásico winner against Newell’s and an impressive match winning brace away to River Plate highlighted Véliz’s talent and with interest already brewing 2023 will be an interesting year. 

48. Lautaro Blanco 
Left Back
New Entry

Blanco has been one of the most consistent performers in the Liga Profesional over the past couple of years, always providing an attacking outlet on the left flank. Indeed, no player delivered more crosses in the Primera than the Central full back this year. His displays caught the eye of Elche, who signed him in the summer before promptly loaned him back to Rosario. 2023 should be his shot of establishing himself in Spain and, who knows, push for a national team call up. 

47. Alexandro Bernabei 
Left Back
New Entry

A tough start to life in Scotland after landing himself in bother off the pitch, Alexandro Bernabei has only shown Celtic fans glimpses of what he is capable of. A high intensity, modern full back who bombs forward and creates from wide, the 22-year-old remains a player capable of making a serious mark in Europe. At times hot-headed on the pitch and with this recent black mark on his record Bernabei needs to get his head down and focus on doing what he does best. 

46. Benjamín Domínguez 
New Entry

A diminutive, impish attacking midfielder with an excellent burst of pace and a penchant for giving full backs twisted blood, Domínguez had a breakthrough season, featuring 26 times for El Lobo.  Mainly used as an impact sub off the bench, the 19-year-old needs to find more end-product to become a regular starter. His one and only goal, a perfectly struck volley against Independiente, suggests he is more than capable of it.

45. Valentín Barco 
Boca Juniors
Left Back
2021 Golazo ranking: 45

One of the youngest players in last year’s Golazo 50, Valentín Barco hangs on to his place despite a year that didn’t really see him push any closer to Boca’s starting eleven. Still a serious talent with a ceiling that could easily see him start for Argentina someday, the teenager for now bides his time. There was another reserve title with Boca this year and there is serious interest to take him on loan from clubs in Argentina so it could be the breakout season for Barco.

44. Matías Palacios 
Al Ain 
Attacking midfielder
2021 Golazo ranking: 36

A promising career that increasingly feels as if it is going off on a bizarre tangent, Palacios traded Switzerland for Al Ain in the UAE after failing to establish himself as a regular for Basel.  While his talent and class are undeniable, the playmaker hasn’t followed the traditional route but fortunately he is still young enough to turn things around and fulfill his potential. Hopefully Palacios can get much-needed, regular football under his belt and remind everyone of his abilities.

43. Agustín Giay 
San Lorenzo 
Right Back
New Entry

After a real breakthrough campaign 2023 could be a huge year for Agustín Giay. Likely a key role for Javier Mascherano and the under-20s at the Sudamericano before returning to San Lorenzo for more first team action the 18-year-old is the latest in a promising line of full-backs emerging. Quick, tenacious and eager to provide width to the attack Giay provides exactly what is expected of the position in the modern game. 

42. Rodrigo Villagra 
Defensive Midfielder
2021 Golazo ranking: 40

Another solid year for the 21-year-old deep-lying midfielder who has established himself as a regular for Talleres.  Tidy and unfussy, Villagra doesn’t always make the headlines but he was a big part of La T’s historic run to the quarter finals of the Libertadores but once again experienced heartbreak in the Copa Argentina, losing for the second year in a row, this time to Patronato.  The question now is whether Villagra is ready for a step up or if he’s found his level?

41. Santiago Hezze 
Central midfielder
New Entry

A fourth placed finish and a return to the Copa Libertadores can be viewed as nothing other than a huge success for Huracán and Santiago Hezze was a key element to it. Full of energy the 21-year-old covers every blade of grass and as quickly as he wins the ball on the edge of his own box, can be in the opposition penalty area trying to get on the end of crosses. For clubs from Brazil, MLS and Europe looking for a box-to-box engine with plenty of room for development, Hezze should be on the list.