Historically, Argentina has been one of the largest hotbeds for youth talent, with few countries producing quality players with such consistency. With the European leagues underway and the Argentina Superliga near the end of the season, many European clubs will be keen on bringing top talents to bolster their ranks. Even more so due to the fact that Argentina as a country is going through one of their worse economic crisis ever, this summer’s transfer window is expected to see a lot of the top talent in the league migrate. We will review which are the top 5 under 21 talents from the Argentina Superliga we expect to see playing in Europe this summer.
Lisandro Martinez (21, CB)
The Newell’s Old Boys academy product at Defensa y Justicia has had an outstanding season defending the yellow and green. One of the most complete players in the Argentine league, he is already being looked at by several European giants, as there are very few players with his tactical versatility. Although he typically operates as a left centre back in Defensa’s 3-4-3 or 4-3-3, but he has featured multiple games at LB, RBC, and RB. The versatility he possesses has been the key cog in Sebastian Becaccece’s defence this season.
Naturally left-footed, he is an outstanding passer and dribbler out the back and has an offensive nature to his game, often looking to skip lines and play balls into forwards feet. Averaging 61.7 passes (7.3 longballs), 1 key pass, 1.3 dribbles per game his statistics show his ball playing ability, and has 3 assists on the season. He is the player Defensa look too to get on the ball and build out of the back, no matter what side he’s playing on.
Despite the fact that his size would indicate he is better suited to play left back rather than a centre back, his aggressiveness, strength and overall defensive skill make up for the lack of size, a la Cesar Azpilicueta. Very speedy and aggressive, he is consequently hard to get by in 1-on-1s. His performances have helped Defensa y Justicia earn their first Copa Libertadores qualification and are still in a tight race for the title with Racing Club, with just 2 matches left.
Marcos Senesi (21, CB)
Senesi is a product of the San Lorenzo academy and established himself as an undeniable starter for San Lorenzo this season. The youngster really impressed this season, filling in at centre back and left back, demonstrating his technical ability and versatility from both spots. He has an athletic, lean build, with decent quickness. But it´s his body positioning that has to be highlighted, as he often uses his body well to cover the ball or to force players off the ball when tackling. These attributes, plus his good timing make him a very tough player to get by one on one.
Senesi constantly showed he’s good at picking out forwards with long balls and is often the initiator of San Lorenzo counter attacks. He averages 58 passes per game, including 5.4 long balls. For a defender, his ball control is quite impressive and he’s very adept at dribbling out the back (1.2 dribbles per game). Furthermore, his size and athleticism make him a threat from set pieces.
His aggressiveness, sometimes overaggressiveness, would be one of his weak spots, though as it is a mental aspect, maturity, and correct guidance could prove key to his development in that aspect. With all the Lucas Hernández fuzz of late, Senesi shows a lot of similar qualities and will be undoubtedly sought after, especially after San Lorenzo’s abysmal campaign.
Exequiel Palacios (20, CM)
Marcelo Gallardo’s jewel, Palacios showed just how capable of playing in big matches, having some of his best performances throughout River Plate’s Copa Libertadores championship run. Typically plays as a centre midfielder in River Plate’s 4-3-1-2, but his array of talents has seen him play as a defensive and as an attacking centre midfielder. Skilful on the ball, with both his right and left foot, its hard to get the ball off him, due to his tight control and great use of his body to shield defenders off the ball.
Not particularly strong at beating people off the dribble, but besides that, he excels at keeping possession and moving the ball around looking for a hole in the defence, or finding players in good offensive position. A neat passer, good defender, with very high work rate, he has quickly caught the eye of European giants, with Atletico Madrid rumoured to be looking close to signing him. As a Copa Libertadores champion and one of Argentina Superliga’s best players, he will not come cheap. However, given his performances, it’s safe to say he is one of the most polished U20 players in the world.
Matias Zaracho (CM, 21)
The speedy midfielder was one of Racing’s academy products who flourished with the arrival of coach Eduardo Coudet halfway through the season. The switch of formation under Coudet from a 5-3-2 (where he played as a right wing back) to 4-1-3-2 favoured Zaracho, capable of playing in a central or right-hand side centre midfielder role. His more advanced pitch position relieved him of some of his defensive duties, which in turn allowed him to participate more in attack, using his accurate crossing and speed dribbling to create chances. He excels at combining short passes in the middle of the park and likes to help out during the build-up play.
Zaracho has a tendency of drifting out wide where he can find space and get off crosses (3 assists on the season). His decent strike has resulted in scoring three goals in 21 matches. His past as a right wing-back has made him an able tackler and hard worker on defence. A key piece in the league-leading Racing Club, his performances this season earned him his first international call up for the Scaloni’s Argentina national team, and will certainly be drawing looks from more than a few European clubs.
Matias Vargas (LW, 21)
The young winger has turned heads this season with his pacey dribbling, outstanding ball control and creative passing. Mainly lines up out left in Velez’s 4-2-3-1, he likes to cut inside and; look to beat defenders off the dribble, pull defenders out of position and looking for passing lanes to play his teammates in or create room for a shot. His tight short dribble and acceleration make it hard to defend him, especially when in space (3 dribbles per game). He has lined up at centre attacking midfield and on the right as well and has performed equally as well.
The defensive contribution is adequate, as his one on one defence isn’t particularly good, but at least the work rate is there. He is the man Velez try to find right away after recovering the ball in their own half, as his ability to break lines with his dribbling and vision are key to Velez´s fast break gameplan (1.5 shots, 2 key passes per game). One of the underrated aspects of his game is his ability to draw fouls, which gives room for Gabriel Heinze to apply his set-piece laboratory plays. His 5 goals and 4 assists on the season, don’t do justice to what has been one of the most electric players in Argentina Superliga this year.