After an exile due to hooking up with a compatriot’s wife, Mauro Icardi is a clutch of players signaling a new Argentina look for Jorge Sampaoli
Not that much confirmation was needed after weeks of speculation but Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli has now admitted that once everything is agreed between the Argentine Football Association and the Spanish club, he will take his ‘dream’ job and lead La Albiceleste.
Argentina’s World Cup qualification remains under threat and the squad that has stagnated somewhat since suffering defeat to Germany in the 2014 Final is in desperate need of a shake-up.
Sampaoli is thought to be an admirer of much of the current group so there may not be a complete overhaul but the Copa America winning coach’s more dynamic system and some fresh blood will hopefully breathe life back into a national team that has grown distant from its own supporters.
Sampaoli has said he has not selected the squad for the upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Singapore but the onus on attack and certain new faces have all the hallmarks of Don Sampa. Here are six interesting new additions….
Finally Mauro Icardi’s international exile appears to be over. It’s been three-and-a-half years since Alejandro Sabella handed the striker his debut amid suggestions that Julio Grondona instructed the call-up to ward off interest from Italy. But since that brief cameo, the Inter Milan forward’s club form has been largely ignored, fueling rumours that the Maxi Lopez friends club within the squad have put the breaks on any further appearances.
A new era and obviously a new frame of mind has now seen Icardi drafted in for the upcoming friendlies provided the centre-forward shakes off a thigh strain. 24 goals and eight assists this season in a struggling Inter side just go to prove Icardi’s influence in front of goal and with question marks over Argentina’s current crop of target-men, now might be the time to reproduce this on the international scene.
The static double-five of Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano at the base of Argentina’s midfield is in desperate need of an upgrade and Argentina need look no further than Roma’s Leandro Paredes. The youngster was billed as Juan Roman Riquelme’s heir when coming through Boca Juniors’ academy but an early switch to Italy has transformed the tricky, attacking midfielder into a wonderfully dynamic deep-lying playmaker.
All too often players leaving Argentina too soon see their development falter, but Parades is a great example of the opposite and an invaluable loan with Empoli saw the 22-year-old hone his craft. Argentina’s need for a player in central midfield to move the ball forward swiftly and incisively requires the vision and technique that few possess.
Only Javier Mascherano can also claim to have made a full international debut before playing senior club football but Emanuel Mammana did just that when Alejandro Sabella used the teenager as a second-half substitute in a World Cup warm-up match with Slovenia in 2014.
Mammana’s River debut swiftly followed and aside from a few lapses in concentration the raw materials of an outstanding prospect were clear. Quick and comfortable on the ball the 21-year-old is comfortable at right-back or in the centre and his ability to play in a back three and pass the ball out could be attractive to a coach like Sampaoli. Lyon were quick to snap up Mammana after selling Samuel Umtiti to Barcelona and there will be few in France disappointed with the purchase.
There have been few bright spots from West Ham United’s first season at the London Stadium but the club’s Players’ Player of the Year, Manuel Lanzini has undoubtedly been one of them. The 24-year-old had shown flashes of his talent but after Dimitri Payet forced his way out of the capital, Lanzini flourished in the role of Slaven Bilic’s midfield creator.
Bilic deserves great praise for Lanzini’s development. The skillful number ten that emerged from River Plate’s academy is still there but a far more rounded midfielder has been molded. The Croatian has likened Lanzini to Luka Modric previously and while he hasn’t reached that level, La Joya can fulfill a deeper role with his outstanding passing and work-rate. Blessed with plenty of fives and tens, Argentina have been crying out for players to link the play in between and Lanzini may just be it.
Congratulations to @maanuulanzini10 on being named in the senior @afa squad for the first time! ???
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) May 20, 2017
After undergoing something of an Argentine revolution at Sevilla, one player who Jorge Sampaoli knows very well is Joaquin Correa and the 22-year-old is tipped for a future in La Albiceleste. A slow start initially after his summer move from Sampdoria, El Tucu has grown over the Liga season and begun to show his true potential ahead of what will be an important summer and next season.
Such an exciting talent when bursting into the Estudiantes side, Correa’s fierce right boot was capable of the truly spectacular and his ability to commit defenders and either drive on the outside or cut in off the left wing was a tremendous asset. Whether in Italy or Spain, Correa is yet to truly set the place alight but with further playing time, his pace, directness and versatility could be a real asset.
There is far more to Alejandro Gomez than novelty captain’s armbands and euro-pop hit ‘Dance like Papu’ and after being overlooked by his homeland, the 29-year-old might just shimmy his way into the Argentina set-up.
A product of Arsenal de Sarandi’s academy, Papu was a teammate of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega when Argentina last won the under-20 World Cup in 2007. Since then his career has taken an odd route via Italy and Ukraine but in the past year, the 29-year-old’s form has been nothing short of sensational. Few would have fancied Atalanta to obtain European football and finish above both Milan giants but led by their inspirational and versatile captain, La Dea have done just that. Fourteen goals and ten assists in Serie A, Papu wasn’t able to represent Italy, despite his wishes and may now get the chance that he never thought would come.