Another season is done and dusted in Argentina, but here’s a look at the best of the best of La Primera
After almost one year, 450 matches and 1,024 goals the Argentine Primera 2016/17 season drew to a close this week. Boca Juniors captured their 32nd league title, River Plate, Estudiantes, Racing Club and Banfield followed the champions into the Copa Libertadores while Sarmiento, Atletico de Rafaela, Quilmes and Aldosivi bid farewell to the top flight. There were plenty of impressive individual performances over the season but here is my team of the year.
Goalkeeper – Rodrigo Rey (Godoy Cruz)
Godoy Cruz’s focus was clearly on the Copa Libertadores which explained El Tomba’s somewhat erratic league form but one player who performed consistently was captain Rodrigo Rey. The 26-year-old’s displays have earned him a move to Greek side PAOK and replacing him will be a real job for Lucas Bernardi.
Defence – German Conti (Colon)
Only two sides conceded less than Colon and although El Sabalero’s goal scoring wasn’t enough to snatch a Copa Sudamericana spot, German Conti’s performances in central defence have caught the eye. The lanky 23-year-old was a key factor in the side keeping clean sheets from half their games and it’s little surprise to see the likes of Lazio, Sampdoria and Inter keeping tabs.
Defence – Alexander Barboza (Defensa y Justicia)
The future of Alexander Barboza remains unclear but what is certain is that Defensa y Justicia will badly miss the powerful centre back. The 22-year-old has returned to River Plate after an outstanding loan spell in which El Halcon qualified for the Copa Sudamericana and Barboza notched an impressive five goals. Marcelo Gallardo will do well to find better in his squad and Deportivo La Coruna are hovering with intent.
Defence – Nicolas Tagliafico (Independiente)
Already rewarded with a call-up to Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina squad, Nicolas Tagliafico has been the heart and soul of Independiente almost since the day he arrived in Avellaneda. Strong, committed and a good reader of the play, El Capitan is idolised by El Rojo supporters and after establishing himself as one of the Primera’s best full-backs, switched with ease into the centre this season to marshal the best defence in the top flight.
Midfield – Ignacio Fernandez (River Plate)
Not all of River Plate’s transfers have been successes in the past couple of years but the arrival of Ignacio Fernandez from Gimnasia has proved a masterstroke. Jorge Sampaoli took a closer look against Singapore recently but anyone who has watched River this season will know all about the qualities of the 27-year-old. A fine passer of the ball and an industrious ball winner, Nacho has proved an ideal partner to the more defensive Leonardo Ponzio and pushed further forward this season only highlighted his dynamism.
Midfield – Fernando Belluschi (San Lorenzo)
Given the disappointing end to San Lorenzo’s season it is easy to forget how good Fernando Belluschi was over the course of the whole season. The 33-year-old has been sensational since his return to Argentine football and his six goals and six assists were one of the main reasons behind Los Cuervos’ title challenge earlier in the campaign. Inconsistent results when the Copa Libertadores took priority saw Diego Aguirre’s side slip but Belluschi remains one of the top midfielders in the league.
Midfield – Marcos Acuna (Racing)
Now almost a regular in the Argentina set-up, Racing look almost certain to be bidding farewell to Marcos Acuna in this window. The 25-year-old has admitted that the club promised he could leave for Europe at the end of the season and is ready for the next step in his career. Few who have watched El Huevo over the past 18 months would argue otherwise; with nine goals and thirteen assists, the left-footed magician looks destined for bigger things.
Midfield – Emiliano Rigoni (Independiente)
If Independiente had had the number nine to match the exploits of winger Emiliano Rigoni, El Rojo would certainly have been celebrating a return to the Copa Libertadores and maybe even have challenged Boca Juniors for the title. The 24-year-old is understandably attracting interest from Europe after scoring eleven league goals but his searing pace was the main weapon for Ariel Holan’s in-form side.
Midfield – Gonzalo Martinez (River Plate)
The frustration for River Plate supporters for so long was that the talent of Gonzalo Martinez was clear, the application and consistency was lacking. However, everything seemed to click into place this season and Pity’s pace, skill and wand-like left foot made him one of the Primera’s most dangerous forwards. Seven goals and six assists, including a thumping Superclasico volley, quickly won around River fans and now Sporting Lisbon ponder a summer move.
Forward – Dario Benedetto (Boca Juniors)
There were many who questioned whether Dario Benedetto was the man to fill the Boca Juniors number nine shirt when the 27-year-old first arrived from Club America but one year on and Pipa has cemented himself as the best that La Bombonera has seen since Martin Palermo and at the centre of intense interest from Europe. 21 goals from 24 starts not only made Pipa comfortably the league’s leading marksman but suggests that the centre-forward could be ready to take that form overseas.
Forward – Sebastian Driussi (River Plate)
Zenit St Petersburg appear to have all but sealed a €20 million move for Sebastian Driussi and even at that price it could prove to be a steal after an unbelievable season that saw the 21-year-old score 17 times. After spending his first couple of seasons with the senior squad as a flexible, stand-in winger, Marcelo Gallardo had the academy product study tapes of Luis Suarez, pushed him centrally alongside Lucas Alario, and the results were devastating.
Subs: Martin Campana (Independiente); Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Ricardo Centurion (Boca Juniors), Gustavo Bou (Racing Club), Emanuel Cecchini (Banfield), Wilmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Matias Aguirregaray (Estudiantes), Jonatan Maidana (River Plate), Leonel Di Placido (Atletico Tucuman), Ivan Marcone (Lanus), Facundo Quignon (Newell’s Old Boys), Emanuel Reynoso (Talleres)