Latin Wonderkids: Part One of a peak into South America’s football future by David N
When I did my first ‘Latin Wonderkids’ post a few years ago, all of the players I chose were playing in South America. In the months since, all of them bar one moved to Europe. The one who didn’t had already been and returned before I wrote the piece. Young South American talent doesn’t stay long in the continent, and you can probably expect to see every one of the players listed below in European football over the next year or two.
Juan Manuel Iturbe of Cerro Poteno (Argentina)
Born in Argentina to Paraguayan parents, this tricky little forward has been dubbed the “Paraguayan Messi”. An unfair comparison for any player, and yet based on his appearances for Argentina in the South American Under-20 Championships and for Cerro Porteno in this year’s Copa Libertadores, it’s almost understandable. Short and stocky yet with a brilliant ability to surge past players with a burst of sudden, unmatchable acceleration, the Messi comparisons stem from his habit of drifting in from the wing and combining clever one-twos with dribbles and feints. He can also finish off those moves, and his play is as reminiscent of Carlos Tevez as it is of Messi. The circumstances of his birth meant that he was eligible to play for either Argentina or Paraguay, and he opted for Argentina after appearing for different youth teams for each country through his teens. European clubs have been sniffing around him for a couple of years, and he’s already signed a pre-contract agreement with Porto, which means he officially becomes their player when he turns 18 in June. Any knowledge of Porto’s transfer dealings with South America suggests that they know their business, and if that’s not enough, here’s some Iturbe in action.
Lucas of Sao Paolo (Brazil)
His full name is Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva, so, ensuring maximum confusion when he shares a pitch with fellow Brazilian Lucas Leiva, of course he’s called Lucas. He’s an entirely different player, however, a stocky, quick little attacking midfielder who began his career at Corinthians before moving to Sao Paolo, where he has been compared to Kaka. That’s more due to position than style, but he’s as explosive as that Brazilian playmaker. He dazzled at the South American Under-20s, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-0 destruction of eventual runners-up Uruguay. He combines aggressive eruptions of dribbling with slide-rule passes, making him terrifying in the final third. Brazil’s problem over the next decade may well be how to accommodate both him and the more widely known and equally gifted Ganso. Not a bad problem to have, admittedly.
Ivan Pillud of Racing Club de Avellaneda (Argentina)
Pressure? Try the coach of your national team invoking comparisons to a living legend and claiming that you can replace him. That’s what Argentina Coach Sergio Batista did when he discussed 24 year old Right Back Pillud in the same breath as Javier Zanetti. But watching Pillud for Racing Club this season, the comparisons make sense. In a 3-4-3 formation which demands most from its wing-backs, he is a force of nature up and down the flank, displaying attacking threat, defensive sense and quite awesome stamina. He debuted at Tiro Federal in the Argentine Second Division, moved briefly to Newells Old Boys before a big transfer to Europe and Espanyol. There he barely played, and went back to Racing on loan last year. After early injury problems he has been a revelation, and is a contender for a spot in the Argentina squad for the Copa America this summer.
Bryan Carrasco of Audax Italiano (Chile)
Almost a Brazilian-style full-back in that he can play purely in defence, as a winger or as a marauding wing-back, Chilean Carrasco has gained some notoriety of late due to a ridiculous simulation during a Chile-Ecuador Under-20 qualifying fixture a few months ago, where he slapped himself in the face with an opponent’s hand then dived to the ground clutching himself. Vile as that behaviour may be, Carrasco is an exciting, enterprising defender, strong and fast, confident on the ball and hard in the tackle. Tottenham Hotspur have been consistently linked with him, but at 20, he’s only been in the Audax Italiano senior team since the start of this season and perhaps needs a little more experience before he makes such a move.
Santiago Garcia of Nacional (Uruguay)
Stocky, explosive 20 year old Uruguayan striker Garcia has scored 39 goals in 69 games for Nacional of Montevideo as well as five in nine for the Uruguayan Under-20 team. It’s only a matter of time before he’s fighting for a place in the senior squad alongside Forlan, Suarez and Cavani, and probably a matter of time before he’s playing in Europe, too.
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