A revamped Argentinean League is almost back in business, and here are six of the best young guns to shine in the new season
Argentina’s top flight gets back underway in less than a week and while the Primera may have undergone something of a rebranding and become the much debated Superliga, one thing remains unchanged – it is still home to some of the finest young talent around. Here are six players who look set for either a big season with their current clubs or imminent transfers to Europe.
Lautaro Martinez – Racing Club
Injury may keep Lautaro Martinez out of the Racing side when the season kicks off but make no mistake, the 19-year-old will be a key player for La Academia this season.
Quick, tenacious and a natural goal-scorer, the Argentina under-20 star scored an impressive nine strikes from 16 appearances last season and with forward Gustavo Bou now in Mexico, Diego Cocca will be looking to Martinez more than ever.
President Victor Blanco knows what an asset the club have on their hands and with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid among those sniffing around, even at his $20 million release clause, Martinez could prove a bargain.
Ezequiel Barco – Independiente
Ezequiel Barco’s tears at the end of last season after missing a penalty that denied Independiente a place in the Copa Libertadores signaled a sad end to what was an outstanding season for the teenage sensation.
Having only turned 18 in March, Barco is already one of the figureheads in Ariel Holan’s dynamic side and perhaps not since Sergio Aguero have supporters in Avellaneda been so excited about a young talent.
El Rojo have already turned down bids from Europe and are eager to end the club’s trophy drought. Barco looks like their best hope of doing that and if the skillful playmaker could manage it, expect huge offers to be landing on the table.
Gonzalo Maroni – Boca Juniors
Sebastian Beccacece recently named Gonzalo Maroni in his Argentina under-20 squad and while chances in the Boca Juniors starting eleven will likely remain sparce, the 18-year-old could prove a useful option for Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
In his first start for the Buenos Aires giants last season, Maroni dazzled with his skill, vision and a stunning volleyed goal. Understandably sections of the press jumped on the performance and made comparisions to Boca icon, Juan Roman Riquelme and while it’s far too early to make such claims, Maroni could be set for some exciting cameos this season.
Nicolas de la Cruz – River Plate
Vital to Marcelo Gallardo’s Copa Libertadores winning side of 2015 were the midfield goals of Uruguayan Carlos Sanchez and after a lengthy transfer pursuit, River Plate have captured El Pato’s half-brother Nicolas de la Cruz.
The 20-year-old is considered one of Uruguay’s biggest talents and after captaining the Celeste to the under-20 South American championships and a World Cup semi-final was on the radar of several European clubs.
Gallardo made de la Cruz one of his top targets and despite River’s strong squad, expect the youngster to have an important role as the games come thick and fast.
Esteban Rolon – Argentinos Juniors
Whether Esteban Rolon starts the season with Argentinos Juniors remains to be seen as Argentina’s grandes, Malaga and Genoa all hold a firm interest over the elegant defensive midfielder.
Los Bichos’ famed academy has produced the likes of Fernando Redondo and Esteban Cambiasso and Rolon is the latest in this line of classy, ball-playing number fives. Crucial to Gabriel Heinze’s side securing promotion back to the Primera, the 22-year-old is a tireless ball winner but equally a dangerous playmaker from deep, where his vast range of passing and dribbling ability drives the team forward.
Seemingly available for as little as $4 million, Argentinos Juniors’ potential loss would be a huge gain for someone.
Alexis Castro – San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo appear to have done some good business in the window but none look better on paper than the capture of midfielder Alexis Castro.
The 22-year-old shone last season in a desperately poor Tigre side and his all-action style will be well suited in Diego Aguirre’s engine room. Combative enough to play in front of the back four and technically sound enough to push further up the field, Castro is a box-to-box presence with the ability to perform a variety of roles.
Five goals last season, including an utterly beautiful outside-of-the-boot lob against Velez Sarsfield, switching Victoria for Bajo Flores could be the making of Castro.