According to Jorge Sampaoli, only one man has his name on the squad list for the World Cup – Lionel Messi, to leave a race to be the man between the posts
The Number One
Sergio Romero had been linked with a move away from Manchester in an effort to get regular playing time and ensure that his number status isn’t lost and while that didn’t happen in January it is difficult to see the most capped goalkeeper in Argentina’s history losing his spot.
A commanding shot-stopper, Romero has been behind Argentina’s defence virtually unchallenged since his debut in 2009 and while the lack of competition is one reason for that so too is the fact that Chiquito has never let La Albiceleste down.
The Number Two
One aspect of Romero’s game that isn’t to Sampaoli’s taste is his ability, or lack of, with the ball at his feet. Something with which Romero’s deputy, Nahuel Guzmán excels.
The somewhat eccentric Guzmán has become a cult figure in México during a period of enormous success for Tigres and while the 32-year-old is capable of the odd howler, he is an athletic goalkeeper, who is more than comfortable coming out of his penalty area and passing to the feet of his defenders.
A key member of Tata Martino’s Newell’s side prior to moving to México, Guzmán has been around the national side since Tata got his shot with the national team and Patón looks likely to be in Russia.
The remaining spot
Ahead of March’s friendlies, Jorge Sampaoli is understood to have two names that he is torn over – one a player who had looked to have missed his chance and another to have quickly come into contention.
Chelsea’s Willy Caballero was hugely unfortunate to miss out on the World Cup four-years-ago after proving himself as one of La Liga’s top stoppers at Malagá. However, a move to Manchester City that same summer has seen the 36-year-old, much like Romero, see more of English football’s benches than pitches.
A switch to Chelsea last summer hasn’t exactly improved matters but when called upon in the cup, Caballero has impressed and as a former under-20 World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist, Willy might now get his chance.
The other is Franco Armani, who was looked over during the past couple of years while establishing himself as one of the finest goalkeepers in South America with Atlético Nacional, but has now moved to River Plate.
The extra exposure of playing at one of Argentina’s biggest clubs has already moved him into Sampaoli’s radar more than lifting the Copa Libertadores did, and after a recent visit to River’s training ground, Sampa may give him a call in March.
Many would have thought Gerónimo Rulli would be Argentina number one by now and after years of outstanding performances and somewhat inexplicable exclusions from squads, this was perhaps the year for the 25-year-old to shine.
Unfortunately, Rulli’s form with Real Sociedad this season has been wretched and after conceding the third highest number of goals from one of the fewest number of shots, not only has the former Estudiantes keeper lost his place but an international call looks further away than ever.
And the same failure to take a chance could also cost Agustín Marchesín. A first start for Argentina in the November friendly against Nigeria was an opportunity to cement a place in Sampaoli’s plans but as the Argentina defence fell apart, the 29-year-old conceded four and the defeat was also a failed audition.
After such fine performances with Lanús and in México with Santos Laguna and Club América it would be harsh to judge Marchesín solely on one game but with others vying for that position, it could prove costly.