It will be scout city in Ecuador for the U-20 South American Championships. Here’s Peter Coates already on the case for the 5 best Argentines on show
There is little doubting that Argentine youth football is experiencing a worrying lull since the heady days of the late 1990s and 2000s under the guidance of Jose Pekerman but this week the latest group of hopefuls kick off their campaign in the under-20 South American Championship. Here are five talented youngsters that could catch the eye in Ecuador.
Santiago Ascacibar: Defensive midfielder – Estudiantes
Manager Claudio Ubeda has already named Estudiantes’ midfielder Santiago Ascacibar his captain and praised his natural leadership after working with the squad at the Ezeiza training complex over the past weeks. It’s not difficult to see why as the 19-year-old has barely put a foot wrong since making his senior debut for El Pincha and racking up close to 50 appearances in that time.
The diminutive midfielder will be the cornerstone of Argentina’s starting eleven and his unrivalled ball winning, tactival awareness and efficient passing will be key to Ubeda’s side controlling possession. Already a target for European clubs, the Sudamericano may just push a move a little closer.
Ezequiel Barco: Attacking midfielder – Independiente
Despite being the youngest member of the squad (and possibly the entire tournament) 17-year-old Ezequiel Barco has been handed the famous number ten shirt by Claudio Ubeda. A wonderfully gifted midfielder, the pint-sized playmaker drifts past defenders, has an eye for a pass and has already displayed the maturity and work ethic to battle back and work the team.
Independiente haven’t had much to cheer over the last few months but Barco’s emergence has provided a ray of light. Rejected by Boca Juniors, among others, as a youngster after travelling to Buenos Aires, El Rojo may have unearthed a real gem.
Lautaro Martinez: Forward – Racing Club
The player likely tasked with firing Argentina to glory will be Racing Club’s Lautaro Martinez and the 19-year-old could barely have had a better education since replacing the great Diego Milito for his senior debut in 2015. Training alongside Milito and now fulfilling a role as backup to Lisandro Lopez and Gustavo Bou have molded Martinez into the predatory finisher that he is.
Quick and clinical, Martinez has already shone for Argentina at various youth levels and after being narrowly beaten by Spain in the final of last year’s L’Alcudia tournament, Real Madrid were already linked with a move.
Julian Chicco: Central midfielder – Boca Juniors
Having had a trial with Manchester United in 2014 and coming close to a switch to Juventus shortly after, Julian Chicco already knows what it’s like to have your name linked to some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Their loss could have been Boca Juniors’ gain as the Buenos Aires giants signed the youngster from Colon and after impressing at youth level for both club and country, Chicco made his senior debut in April after injury ruled out Fernando Gago. Combative yet technically superb, the 18-year-old will likely partner Ascacibar in central midfield.
Lucas Rodriguez: Attacking midfielder – Estudiantes
As the most experienced member of the squad after becoming something of a regular for Estudiantes since his debut in July 2015, Claudio Ubeda will be looking to Lucas Rodriguez to provide that little spark in the final third.
Pacy, tricky and with good vision, Rodriguez can play almost anywhere in the attack, either out wide, as a number ten or up front and this versatility in addition to his experience will be useful to Argentina. Nelson Vivas has certainly benefitted from this as Estudiantes have enjoyed a fruitful past year and the 19-year-old has pitched in with some important goals.