The next 13 South American superstars destined for a European transfer
One of the great joys of watching South American football is seeing the next generation of superstars as they are coming through at their hometown clubs.
Unfortunately for the hometown clubs, among those watching are legions of scouts reporting back to the moneyed elite of European football, who swoop down like vultures at the first opportunity to snatch away the very best.
With the post-Brexit changes to visa rules, it is now easier than ever for Premier League sides to sign the finest young South Americans. So who might your club’s scouts have their eyes on for the near future? We’ve compiled a list of 13 of the most promising talents on the other side of the Atlantic.
He’s 5’6”, he plays for Independiente and he’s a nimble forward. The comparisons are almost inevitable. But try to resist, 18-year-old Velasco doesn’t like being called the ‘new Aguero’.
That’s because, unlike Aguero, Velasco is as much a creator as a finisher and rather than playing furthest forward, is most comfortable in behind a No.9 or even out on the left from where he can drift in.
In January, Argentinian newspaper El Intransigente suggested both Parma and Newcastle are interested.
The same month, Velasco scored a cracking brace to get Independiente their first away win against River Plate in over a decade. It won’t be long before he’s Europe bound.
At 24, Colombian Campuzano is not the youngest on this list by any stretch. But there’s no doubt he has what it takes to rise to the demands of European football.
An intelligent defensive midfielder, he was organiser-in-chief for a decent Boca Juniors side as they made their way to the 2020 Copa Libertadores semi-finals and has already made his senior international debut.
A recent salary rise was reported in the Colombian press to be lower than expected for Campuzano, so he could be tempted to leave come the European summer.
He’s a little prone to moments of indiscipline, but that shouldn’t put off his suitors, who are reported to include Fiorentina and Galatasaray.
While we’re on the subject of indiscipline, it would seem appropriate to discuss Campuzano’s international team-mate and club rival Carrascal.
The 22-year-old ‘Colombian Neymar’ plays for River Plate, and with the ball at his feet can do anything he damn well pleases, as he proved again with a delightful goal in the Libertadores quarter-finals in December 2020.
⚪🔴 Abrió la cuenta de la goleada de @RiverPlate para sellar la clasificación a la Semifinal.
— CONMEBOL Libertadores (@Libertadores) December 21, 2020
Unfortunately, the space between Carrascal’s ears seems mostly to be filled by whimsy and caprice. The attacking midfielder is about as committed to helping out his team-mates and putting in a defensive shift as Boris Johnson is to counting the children he’s fathered.
According to a recent article in El Intransigente, Carrascal’s behaviour – he published an Instagram post featuring a photo of him on a beach shortly after testing positive for coronavirus – is really starting to get on River coach Marcelo Gallardo’s wick, so if a European club reckons they can get a tune out of Carrascal, now may be the time to pounce.
If clubs are looking for a less potentially explosive option at River, though, they could opt for Carrascal’s fellow Colombian Rafael Santos Borre, a forward who really is willing to put a shift in, or they could try for…
River No.9 Alvarez burst onto the scene in 2018 and, aged just 18, featured in that year’s Copa Libertadores final, which saw Gallardo’s men beat eternal rivals Boca.
Since then, Alvarez has gone on to be Argentina’s standout player at the 2019 South American Under-20 Championships, perform equally well for Argentina’s Under-23s and score in an Argentinian cup final for his club.
He is a lithe, mobile forward and a fine finisher. Last year, he told TyC: “Playing in Europe is a dream… On the PlayStation, I play with Barcelona and Manchester City.”
As a teenager, he had a trial at Real Madrid and with reported interest from La Liga clubs, Spain appears the likeliest destination.
A los 31', con este gol de Julián Álvarez, la Selección Argentina Sub-23 derrota 1-0 a Bolivia en la cancha de Banfield. pic.twitter.com/sceP1jl4Mz
— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) September 4, 2019
Alright, we know what you’re thinking: Gabigol had his chance and blew it. But bear with us here.
Since his Inter Milan flop, Barbosa has gone back to Brazil and excelled. He was the top scorer in the country two years in a row, with Santos in 2018 and in 2019 with Flamengo, winning the Brazilian league and Libertadores with the latter.
He’s still only 24, and his finishing is second to none in South America.
In 2020, he told AS: “Today I feel much more prepared to confront the personal and professional challenges of moving country.”
If that’s true, then he may well be worth another punt. West Ham were apparently interested in January 2020, but Sevilla now look the best bet to snap him up.
Gabigol’s team-mate Pedro is in a similar situation. He moved from boyhood club Fluminense to Fiorentina in 2019 but barely got a look in and was sold back to Brazil and Flamengo last year.
Again, his form has picked up since his return, with a goal every 116 minutes in the 2020 Brasileirao.
He’s another one who could earn a second shot at a top-five European league.
The Santos youth academy is a goldmine of youth talent. Gabigol was a product, as were Rodrygo, Neymar and before them Robinho. The next one off the line could be Jorge.
Given a good run of games for the first time in 2020, he was Santos’ top scorer as they reached the Copa Libertadores final.
Still just 19, he has matured a lot recently and is capable of dropping deep to link the play as well as getting in the area to finish chances.
Juventus, Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan have all been linked and last week reports emerged of an approach from Chelsea. Santos are in dire straits financially, so they would likely accept a fee below his €50million buyout clause.
Playing alongside Kaio Jorge this season was 23-year-old Venezuelan pocket rocket Soteldo. He’s 5’2”, he dribbles like no-one else and he’s capable of a wondergoal. What more could you ask for?
On the opposite flank stands Yeferson Soteldo – all 5’2″ of him. A box of tricks, the #Libertadores final is likely to be Soteldo’s last game for Santos.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing for Manchester United,” he said last year.
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) January 29, 2021
‘Another one from the Santos academy?’, we hear you ask. Yes, a-bloody-nother one!
He might not play for the Peixe anymore – for some unfathomable reason, they let him go to Internacional on a free – but young Yuri’s got all the hallmarks of a Santos player: he’s quick, he’s audacious, and he’s got an eye for goal.
He’s found the onion bag 10 times in 19 games for Inter in the 2020 Serie A at a rate of a goal every 98 minutes. He’s been so good recently that Internacional let top-scorer Thiago Galhardo go on loan to Al-Hilal. Alberto is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Twenty-two-year-old Racing Club academy product Zaracho was linked to Leeds United last summer but joined up with Jorge Sampaoli at Atletico Mineiro in Brazil instead.
The midfielder has struggled to settle in Belo Horizonte and picked up an injury towards the end of 2020, but there’s still a very promising player in there.
Zaracho can play pretty much anywhere in midfield, is a bundle of energy and intense pressing and is technically sound, which pretty much means he’s well suited to the Bielsa/Sampaoli hard-running style.
Atletico Mineiro are currently investing big with an eye on the Brazilian league and Libertadores titles in 2021, so they’ll not want to let him go, but Zaracho could well pop up in Europe come 2022.
Pedro de la Vega
De la Vega is great. Proper old-school Argentinian footballer hairdo on a proper old-school Argentinian footballer.
The 20-year-old’s stats don’t really do him justice, but he’s a joy to watch. Strong and skilful, De la Vega can hold off defenders easily and surge forwards with the ball at his feet, dragging his team up the pitch.
Inter Milan are reported to be leading the race for his signature, which will cost them around €20million.
Allende, who had trials at Arsenal when he was 18, has already been snapped up by a moneyed giant but is still playing in South America.
How? The 21-year-old Chilean attacker was bought by the City Group, owners of Manchester City and a number of others around the world, and currently plays for the conglomerate’s South American arm Montevideo City Torque in the Uruguayan capital.
He’s a slippery little dribbler and could turn up in Manchester in years to come. Or if Pep doesn’t want Allende, City will surely be able to sell him at a profit.
Lindos chiches tiró Marcelo Allende, pero es el doble de valioso que haga esto en el fútbol uruguayo. 🥋🇺🇾⚽pic.twitter.com/v6L5UuzjTe
— Fodbold World (@fodboldworld) January 14, 2021
Last but certainly not least is the youngest man on this list, Uruguayan attacker Arezo. He might only have turned 18 in November 2020, but he’s already making waves in his homeland with River Plate (the Uruguayan club, not the Buenos Aires outfit of the same name).
Arezo finishes with the calm air of a player 10 years older, has 18 professional goals to his name already and has drawn comparisons with Luis Suarez.
Rumours surfaced in Uruguay that he’d move to one of the country’s big two, Nacional or Penarol. But the excellently named River Plate president Willie Tucci rubbished that idea on Radio Uruguay: “Matias doesn’t need to prove himself at Penarol or Nacional, today he’s in all the international media as the best No.9 of his generation.”
You tell ‘em, Willie.
Arezo’s already been called up to the full Uruguay squad by Oscar Tabarez and Milan, Arsenal and Sevilla are all reported to be interested. He’s destined for big things.