World Football: 9 Young Argentines Set for Big Money Moves to Europe
While it may divide much opinion in Europe, statistics seem to illustrate that some of the most talented and successful players in world football come from nations such as Argentina and Brazil.
In recent years, players like Ronaldinho, Kaká, Carlos Tevez, and Lionel Messi—among numerous others—have thrilled audiences in Europe and brought titles glory, and entertainment to clubs such as FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester United. And, looking at any major club's squad in Europe shows at least a handful of South Americans plying their trade.
However, whereas many have moved to the Old Continent in search of fame and fortune, the South American game still manages to remain competitive despite losing thousands of young players a year to Europe.
In 2010, over 2,000 players—mostly in their teens—left Argentina to go abroad. This improves the game in other countries and allows players with an often natural affinity to look for the clever pass or provide skill where others might prefer force to make major impacts in foreign football culture.
Nevertheless, it disappoints thousands of local fans who watch helplessly as their most coveted jewels are shipped off to keep their clubs afloat.
Last season alone saw River Plate's gifted attacking midfielder Erik Lamela leave for Roma, while Ricardo Álvarez left Velez Sarsfield to link up with veterans Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Diego Milito at Internazionale.
This list consists of the the top nine Argentine players who will leave domestic football in the next few seasons to join major clubs in Europe.
With talent emerging everyday, the names and numbers may shift. But, these nine will certainly be making glory for themselves abroad before long.
9. Alan Ruiz (Gimnasia La Plata)
Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata have suffered a miserable year as they were relegated in 2011 and proved unable to secure top flight football for the upcoming season after finishing fifth in the standings.
However, they could be encouraged by the emergence of 18-year-old midfielder Alan Ruiz.
The strong and agile anchorman has already earned 29 appearances for his club and has been capped seven times as an Argentina youth international.
Although not as flashy as other playmakers, Ruiz is a certainty in the middle of the pitch and there are already rumors afloat that he has been transferred to Greek giants Olympiacos (via Yahoo! Sports) for the 2012-13 season.
If a move is made official in the coming days, it will provide the youngster an opportunity to play consistently in the Champions League and harden himself in the sometimes negative world of Greek football.
Nevertheless, if it does not happen this summer, Ruiz will still be making a name for himself in Europe very soon.
8. Leonel Galeano (Independiente)
Although only 20-years-old, Leonel Galeano is one of the more experienced members in this list.
Already having played 79 top-flight games for Independiente, traditionally one of Argentina's most popular and trophy-laden clubs, he was also a vital member of the squad that won the 2010 Copa Sudamericana—the South American equivalent of the Europa League.
In 2011, he struggled to maintain a first-team place with returning veteran Gabriel Milito in the squad.
Still, the robust and confident defender played regularly for the Argentina U20 side and he has even managed a cap for the senior side against Jamaica in 2010.
This morning, rumors emerged (via elRecado.net) of a possible transfer to Italian top-flight club Parma, where Galeano would join former Boca Juniors defender Gabriela Paletta.
Parma has often served as a feeder club for bigger Italian sides and it is likely that the centre-back will first move to a club where he could better earn his stripes before an eventual transfer to wealthier sides in Spain or Italy.
7. Rodrigo Battaglia (Huracán)
Huracán, much like Gimnasia LP, has suffered terribly in the past two years.
After producing stars like Javier Pastore, who was bought from his first European club Palermo for €40 million by big-spending Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, they almost suffered back-to-back relegations and are currently playing in the Argentine second division.
However, players like midfield workhorse Rodrigo Battaglia offer a glimmer of hope for the club—if not simply for their market value.
Since 2010, Battaglia has played over 60 times for his club and has managed eight caps for the Argentina U20 side which contained the majority of the players on our list.
Rumors in the previous weeks suggested the 21-year-old Battaglia would join Italian club Fiorentina, but talk has died down recently.
If a move to Italy this summer does transpire, the midfielder could easily follow in the footsteps of Pastore, who initially joined a medium-sized club where he could grow better accustomed to European football before facilitating a bigger move within a few seasons.
6. Facundo Ferreyra (Banfield)
Banfield has occasionally been one of the surprise packages in the Argentinean league.
Famous for producing superstar and former Argentina captain Javier Zanetti, as well as claiming their first and only league championship in 2009, the modest club is currently home to one of the hottest young strikers in the nation.
The 21-year-old youth product, Facundo Ferreyra, is already an established U20 international player for his country and was joint second top scorer in the 2011 South American Youth Championship with four goals.
His proficiency in front of goal was enough for Argentina to finish third in the tournament, but they missed out on top spot and an Olympic berth despite beating both Brazil and Uruguay along the way.
With Banfield shockingly relegated for the upcoming campaign after dismal displays in the 2011 Apertura and 2012 Clausura, Ferreyra could be used by the club to cash in on arguably their biggest market asset, and fund the purchase of more players as they fight to regain their place in the top flight.
Facundo, who has played over 50 times for Banfield, is already being linked with a move to Sunderland (according to Rokerreport.com). However, he may initially be sold to another club in Argentina before he is shipped off to the Old Continent.
Whether it happens this summer or not, Ferreyra will still be one of the most entertaining Argentine forwards in the game once he does make the eventual move to Europe.
5. Lisandro Ezequiel López (Arsenal De Sarandí)
There is already one famous Argentinean that goes by the name Lisandro Lopez.
However, the veteran Olympique Lyon striker, who has been one of the top forwards in Europe for several years, and the young Arsenal de Sarandí centre-back could not be more different as players.
A player of equal significance and presence as his namesake, the 22-year-old Lopez has been one of the major architects of Arsenal's title-winning 2012 Clausura campaign—their first domestic championship.
Still, it is not clear whether the robust centre-back will remain in the fold as the modest club commences their title defense in a few weeks and prepares to compete in the 2012-13 Copa Libertadores.
Lopez is the kind of towering, battle-hardened defender who could easily slot into any Serie A side and would prove a major tool for any top club that is looking for both an assured presence in the back and a goal-scoring threat on set-pieces (10 goals in 68 appearances for Arsenal).
This summer, the man with two international caps has already been linked with moves to big-spending local rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate, but an additional offer from Europe would not be surprising.
Nevertheless, if Arsenal are able to hold onto their budding star for a little longer—especially considering their recent successes—£10 million-plus offers from the likes of major Champions League clubs will surely arrive in the future.
4. Nicolás Tagliafico (Banfield)
Some regular viewers of Argentine football may be shocked to see the 19-year-old left back ahead of teammate Facundo Ferreyra in this list.
Tagliafico is not a glamorous player and as a defender is not nearly in the headlines as much as goal-scorers like Ferreyra or the other strikers in this ranking.
But, his contribution on the pitch is equally, if not more important, than attackers who only managed to scrape together 13 goals in 19 matches during the 2012 Clausura tournament.
Most of his admirers are quick to compare him to another Banfield youth product—Javier Zanetti.
Tagliafico is quick on his feet, strong in the tackle, and has lung-busting stamina that keeps him at 100 percent throughout entire games. And, while he is a much more suitable defender, like Zanetti he is able to make rapid bursts up the pitch to disrupt the opposing defense before passing the pull to his more attack-minded teammates.
In the spring, it was rumored that Pep Guardiola had sent scouts to look at Tagliafico as a possible understudy to the health-stricken Eric Abidal. The signing of Jordi Alba may have deterred that move, but it is very possible to see the enterprising left-back at one of Europe's major clubs within the next year.
With Banfield relegated to the second division, Tagliafico will potentially be moved on to make way for new signings and clear the wage bill of a player with probably a large transfer fee waiting for the club.
River Plate are supposedly interested in the defender. However, a move to Europe may be more suitable for a player already destined to be a senior left-back for Argentina after earning 17 caps at both U17 and U20 levels for his country.
3. Ezequiel Adrián Cirigliano (River Plate)
Manchester United supporters will have grown familiar with the name Ezequiel Cirigliano if they have been reading the transfer talk in the previous two weeks.
The tough-tackling and talented midfielder is one of River Plate's most marketable players and has already played 32 times since 2010 for one of Argentina's wealthiest and more popular clubs.
Cirigliano, still only 20 years old, is also a veteran of the Argentina U20 side that finished third in the 2011 South American Youth Championship, and has been said to combine the passing technique of Barcelona's Xavi with the defensive capabilities of former River Plate player Javier Mascherano.
While, it is fairly common for Manchester United to be linked with a host of promising players during the summer, River Plate is very serious about the English club meeting his £12.5 million (16 million euro) buyout clause if they are to bid for the midfielder, according to Click-Manchester.com.
River Plate may want to hold onto Cirigliano as they try to reclaim title glory following a season in the second division, but sooner than later he will be one of the most talked about players in Europe.
2. Rogelio Funes Mori (River Plate)
Football fans in the United States may be familiar with the surname Funes Mori.
After the Funes Mori family moved to the United States from Argentina in 2001, both Rogelio and his identical twin brother Ramiro featured in 2008 edition of Sueño MLS, the nationally-televised player search for the MLS.
The 21-year-old striker has already played 62 matches for the Buenos Aires club and scored 15 goals, while also playing consistently for the Argentina U20 side. He is a fascinating attacking partner and despite not scoring consistently, he manages to create space and layoff immaculate passes for other teammates to strike.
According to Clarin.com, Rogelio has been heavily linked with AC Milan this summer and may want to move abroad to further develop his talents after a season of learning from respected poachers David Trezeguet and Fernando Cavenaghi at River Plate.
When he does eventually go abroad, it will be for a massive sum as Argentina's "millionaire" club has previously sold attackers of similar quality such as Gonzalo Higuain and Erik Lamela for €13 million and €14 million, respectively.
1. Sergio Araujo (Boca Juniors)
Many will be surprised to find that 20-year-old forward Sergio Araujo is the only Boca Juniors player in this list.
With only 15 first-team appearances in three seasons at Argentina's most popular club, Araujo's lack of action illustrates a tendency for Boca to rely on more experienced veterans in their attempt to come back from only winning a single domestic title (2011 Clausura) since the end of 2008.
Regardless of appearances, Araujo is another fine product of the Boca Youth Academy and is rated as one of the most skillful forwards to come out of the club in recent years.
In the past week, Barcelona struck a loan deal to keep him with their B squad in the Spanish second division for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. They have the option to purchase the player outright for a fee that could only be massive at the end of the loan period.
Araujo is also a seasoned youth international with Argentina and there should be murmurs of a call-up to the senior squad in the next year.
Right now, the inspiring and spirited striker has the world in the palm of his hand. And, it is possible he will be the next in a long line of great Argentine strikers, much like Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi before him.