Latin Wonderkids: Part Two of a peak into South America’s football future

David N continues his assessment of South America’s next generation with five more picks for the top.

Erik Lamela of River Plate (Argentina)

That the current River Plate first team is thriving and playing some sparkling, fluid attacking football is down mainly to the brilliance of the generation of players recently produced by the club’s academy. Playmaker Manuel Lanzini, centre forward Gabriel Funes Mori and winger Roberto Pereyra all look to be potentially fantastic talents, but the undoubted star at the centre of this constellation is 19 year old Erik Lamela. He gained some notoriety when Barcelona tried to buy him as a 12 year old, forcing River’s chairman to offer his family financial incentives to remain in Buenos Aires. His emergence into the senior squad has suggested Barcelona were wise to try and grab him early, as his value will only grow from now on. Possessed of an elegance and sweetness of movement which belies his lanky frame, Lamela can play on the left, but his most effective role appears to be as an enganche or playmaker. His long legs give him terrific pace, enabling him to drift effortlessly past tackles, and his left foot is a magic wand; he is already taking most of River’s set-pieces and is the hub around which some lovely passing moves revolve, prompting and moving with intelligence and subtlety. River have already given him the Number 10 shirt formerly worn by such legends as Enzo Francescoli, Pablo Aimar and Ariel Ortega, which isn’t bad company. But with a host of European clubs circling it seems unlikely he’ll get to wear it for too long…

Gio Moreno of Racing Club de Avellaneda (Colombia)

Colombian playmaker Moreno is a fantasy player, the sort who does unbelievable things, a luxury player who never bothers defending- never bothers with any of the ‘negative’ aspects of the game – but the sort who can turn a match in an instant. He’s the kind of player who makes you remember why you love football. Elegant, technically perfect, athletic and gifted with superb imagination and vision, Colombia’s national team ought to be built around him for the next 10 years. His first season with Racing Club in Argentina instantly confirmed his promise – here was a player seemingly worthy of comparison to the League’s MVP, Juan Roman Riquelme, and bearing some similarities as a player – and he has been consistently linked with Porto among several big European clubs. A serious injury early in the season has ruled him out for the remainder, severely damaging Racing’s hopes, but probably ensuring he stays in Argentina for another term at least.

Ruben Botta of Tigre (Argentina)

This 21 year old attacking midfielder has risen to prominence this year back in Argentina at Tigre, after a baffling spell on-loan at FK Ventspils in Latvia. He came through the youth system at Boca Juniors, and can play both as playmaker and on the left side of midfield. He is exciting and inventive on the ball, with an eye for the spectacular and he seems to be growing into his talent, a good sign in a creative player.

Raul Ruidiaz of Universitario (Peru)

Universitario Desportes are one of Lima’s, and by extension Peru’s big two alongside Allianza Lima, and their big homegrown success over the last few seasons has been 20 year old Ruidiaz, a forward heavily linked with Udinese, who probably see him as a replacement for bound-for-a-bigger-club Alexis Sanchez. The similarity there would be Ruidiaz’s penetrative dribbling ability and recent nose for goal. Far from the finished article, he shows undoubted talent and promise, and a move to the right European club in a year or two might be just the thing for his development.

Diego Rubio of Colo-Colo (Chile)

This 17 year old Chilean striker has goals in his blood. Son of former Colo-Colo forward Hugo Rubio, his brothers both play professionally in Chile and legendary striker Ivan Zamorano (ex-Real Madrid and Inter Milan) is his Godfather. So it’s perhaps no surprise that he’s scored five goals in his first three appearances for Colo-Colo, and that there have already been calls for his selection for the Chilean squad. I’ve only seen highlights so can’t really comment on his style as a player, but you can’t argue with this impact or the finishing in this clip.

More of David N’s musings on football from South America and beyond can be found on GolGolGolGolGol and also on his Twitter page.

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