While Argentina have not quite shone on the international stage, its players have excelled once again from Barcelona to Manchester
A senior Argentina call looked like it would never come for under-20 World Cup winner Alejandro Gomez but an attempt to switch to Italy was thwarted and now after a sensational season with Atalanta, Papu has been included in Jorge Sampaoli’s new-look squad.
Unfancied Atalanta’s Europa League qualification, finishing above both Milan giants, has been one of the stories of the season and captain Papu has been vital. Fifteen goals and ten assists in Serie A illustrate just how effective the pint-sized forward has been and prove there is far more to the 29-year-old than novelty captain’s armbands and the hit ‘Baila como el Papu.’
Barcelona missing out on the Champions League and La Liga mean it’s been a disappointing season at the Camp Nou but it hasn’t prevented Lionel Messi plundering goals and excelling individually. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner captured the Pichichi trophy for the first time since 2012/13 with 37 league goals and his breathtaking last minute winner in the clasico brought up 500 goals for Barca.
Messi holding his number ten shirt aloft in the Santiago Bernabeu will be one the iconic images of the little magician’s career when it is all said and done, so while this season will not live long in the memory for Barcelona supporters, Argentina’s captain marvel has continued to dazzle.
It isn’t easy living up to the expectations of being a €90 million signing for a side that have already won five consecutive Serie A titles but Juventus will still feel that Gonzalo Higuain has proved value for money after Pipita’s goals have the Bianconeri on course for a historic treble.
24 Serie A goals may not have won Higuain the capocannoniere but the 29-year-old became the first Juve player to score more than 20 in his debut season since club legends John Charles and Omar Sivori in the 1957/58 season. Some still question Higuain in the crunch moments after high-profile misses for Argentina but the Champions League final against Real Madrid provide the perfect opportunity for the centre-forward to answer his critics.
Anyone who has watched Paulo Dybala since the teenager burst into the Instituto team has known all about his tremendous talent but this season was when La Joya announced himself to the world. The 23-year-old’s match winning brace to defeat Barcelona in the Champions League was the moment and has many now wondering if Dybala is the heir to Messi’s crown and a future Ballon d’Or winner.
18 goals and seven assists for the season, Dybala’s trickery, creativity and wand of a left foot have pushed Juve to a league and cup double already but there could be more to come. Massimiliano Allegri’s side face Real Madrid in Cardiff and may yet complete a remarkable treble with Argentina’s new star at the centre.
Injury may have denied Marcos Rojo lifting the Europa League trophy but the rugged Argentinian defender’s contribution to Manchester United’s season cannot be understated. Before this year, most supporters at Old Trafford would likely have been happy to see the back of Rojo but under the conservative management of Jose Mourinho and a defensive shortage, the 27-year-old emerged as a crucial first team player.
Something of an unconvincing, hot-headed left back for Argentina, Mourinho has harnessed Rojo’s strengths in the centre of defence and answered questions over where the Copa Libertadores winning defender’s best role is.
Honourable mentions to Federico Fazio (Roma), Leandro Paredes (Roma), Pablo Piatti (Espanyol), Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United), Diego Perotti (Roma)