10 Top South American Players Set for a Transfer to Europe in the January Window
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South America has long been a rich breeding ground for footballing talent and that trend shows no sign of abating. From Brazil to Colombia and Paraguay to Ecuador, the continent has produced footballing talent both with immense quality and in great quantities.
While the biggest star of them all, Neymar, is likely to remain in Brazil for some time yet, there are plenty of others who will be packing their bags for a new life on the Old Continent this January―many of whom remain somewhat unknown to the European footballing public.
Coming up, we'll take a look at 10 players who are set to be in-demand in the weeks ahead.
Bernard (Atlético Mineiro)
While Atlético Mineiro's headlines are generally written by the ever-newsworthy Ronaldinho, there is a strong argument that it has been his attacking-midfield partner Bernard who has inspired the side to an unexpected title-challenge this season.
Just 20 years old, Bernard was, this week, named the 2012 Revelation of the Brazilian Championship by the country's football confederation, the CBF. Whilst previous winners have not always gone onto fulfill their early promise, it is a more than fair reflection of his performance level this campaign.
Atlético may have qualified for the Copa Libertadores next season, but there are indications that Bernard may not be at the club to taste continental action for the first-time in his career, despite only signing a new five-year contract in September.
It has been reported that Spartak Moscow have seen a €15 million bid for the player rejected in the past month and could return with an increased bid in January, while CSKA and Internazionale are reportedly also on his trail. Bernard, himself, has shown interest in a move and could achieve his dream in the coming weeks.
At the start of the 2012 season, 18-year-old centre-back Dória was turning out for Botafogo's Under-18 side at the prestigious Copa São Paulo youth tournament. Now, at the end of his first senior campaign, he is already considered a first-team regular.
Dória's rise to prominence has been rapid. Having made his debut in May, in the midst of an injury crisis, the 6'2" defender has gone on to make 20 senior appearances and is set for a probable call-up to the Brazil Under-20 squad for January's South American Championship.
Technically strong and not afraid to front-up to the physical challenge offered by some of the league's more worldly-wise forwards, Dória has all the attributes to suggest a prosperous career awaits.
Europe's eagle-eyed scouts have already taken note of his development this season and earlier this month it was revealed that Juventus had seen a €4.5 million bid for the youngster rejected. It's highly unlikely that the Old Lady are the only side with their eyes on Botafogo's rising star.
Leandro Damião (Internacional)
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Neymar may not be heading to Europe this January, but Internacional striker Leandro Damião could easily follow international team-mates Lucas Moura and Oscar to the Old Continent before the window slams shut.
Having suffered from a couple of minor injuries and returned to an Inter team struggling for form, Damião's scoring has slowed down in the second-half of 2012. His goalscoring record for the previous 18 months, though, was phenomenal.
However, with Inter having failed to qualify for the 2013 Copa Libertadores and Damião recently hinting at a willingness to move this January, perhaps now is the time that the target-man will make his long-awaited move. Italy and England look the most likely destinations.
Hernan Barcos (Palmeiras)
At 28 years old, Hernan Barcos' wandering career has reached an all-time high after a season of headline grabbing performances for a relegated Palmeiras team in Brazil, culminating in the striker's first appearances for the Argentina National Team.
With Palmeiras' relegation, speculation over Barcos' future has emerged and the target-man has been reluctant to commit his future to the Verdão despite their Copa Libertadores qualification.
Despite interest from clubs in Brazil, Palmeiras insist they are confident of persuading El Pirata (The Pirate) to remain with the club, however the opportunity to play in a major European league would most likely cause Barcos to seek a move away, with relegation a threat to his international chances.
Italy seems the most likely destination, should the chance to move emerge, and Fiorentina have already been heavily linked with his services, however, a bid from an unnamed Russian club has already been rejected.
Palmeiras' faith and promises to their fans could be severely tested as European clubs eye a value for money striking option.
Charles Aránguiz (Universidad De Chile)
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23-year-old midfielder Charles Aránguiz has long attracted admiring glances from Europe for his performances in a Universidad de Chile or Chile National Team shirt and may now, finally, earn his shot at a move across the Atlantic
His industry and ball-retention were key to La U's impressive Copa Sudamericana win of 2011 and, with the side struggling to repeat those performances following the sale of several key players, Aránguiz may be the latest of that fabulous side to be tempted away from the club.
A fee of somewhere between $4-7 million is being asked for the star, depending on which source you read, with Bayer Leverkusen reportedly leading the chase in the summer in the hope of finding a successor to former midfielder Arturo Vidal.
However, there may be a twist in the tale. It is widely reported that prior to January 2011, Italian side Udinese acquired 50 percent of Aránguiz's economic rights for $600k. Whether the Italians chose to act upon their investment is something that will be watched with interest.
The question is not whether Aránguiz will end up playing in Europe, it is merely a matter of when the move occurs.
Leandro Paredes (Boca Juniors)
"The Next Riquelme," Some mantle to carry. The 18-year-old has made just 15 appearances in his budding career at Boca, but has already earned himself fleeting comparisons to the club legend who he has been tasked to replace as the side's enganche, or No. 10.
Paredes' emergence has not been overnight. Indeed, he made his debut as a raw 16-year-old in late 2010. However, it has been in the last few months, since the departure of Riquelme himself, that more opportunities have emerged at senior level and Paredes has impressed, bagging four goals and two assists in 11 Apertura appearances since August.
In recent years, Argentina has not been a country able to retain their talented youngsters for long and Paredes is already tentatively linked with a move away. English side Arsenal are rumoured suitors, while AC Milan are rumoured to be considering a €10 million bid. It is unlikely, at this early stage in his career, that a sum of that magnitude would be required.
Boca will doubtless hope to retain the Argentina Under-17 international for a while longer but it seems that, having having nurtured his talent since eight years old, the Buenos Aires club may be forced to watch his star continue to rise from afar.
Rogelio Funes Mori (River Plate)
Argentine striker Rogelio Funes Mori is another player who has long been linked with a big money European move but, in the eyes of many, his development at River Plate has not lived up to early expectations. At one time, Manchester United were linked with a move for the youngster.
His progress may not have matched initial hype, but there is still plenty of interest in the well-rounded striker. Napoli, in particular, have long been linked with a move for the player and, only this week, reports of their interest were revived in Italy.
The Italians are believed to be looking for a support striker for target-man Edinson Cavani, with the work-rate and intelligent movement of the Argentinian making him an attractive proposition. His lack of regular goals, though, will be a major concern.
It will have been a long time in the making and, at times, a source of great frustration for the player, but it appears that Funes Mori may finally be close to completing the move to Europe that has thus far eluded him.
Juan Sánchez Miño (Boca Juniors)
Versatile midfielder Juan Sánchez Miño is another Boca Juniors player attracting great attention from Europe after a series of fabulous performances for his club side in the past 12 months.
Able to play in a variety of midfield roles, while equally adept at left-back, Sánchez Miño is one of the shining lights of the domestic game in Argentina and was rewarded for his showings with a place in the Argentina National Team for this year's Superclassico das Americas fixtures with Brazil.
The Argentine has plenty to offer. His work-rate and versatility will always make him an attractive prospect, but it is his wonderful left-foot that sets him apart from most―whether it be in crossing from the flank or striking a free-kick at goal.
It remains to be seen if interest comes to fruition in January, but a move looks set to occur sooner, rather than later.
Maurito Caballero (Libertad)
Son of the former Paraguay striker of the same name, Mauro Caballero Jr. is widely regarded as the brightest talent to emerge from Paraguayan football in recent years and, aged just 18, is already close to a move to Europe.
Out-of-contract at Libertad, having not signed a professional deal at the club, Caballero is exploring legal avenues in order to be allowed to complete a move to FC Porto, who have struck a preliminary agreement with the striker and his father.
The Paraguayan Football Association (APF) have initially ruled in favour of Libertad in the case, but it is likely that a compensation package will be agreed and Caballero will be heading for Portugal in January.
An Under-20 international, Caballero covers short distances with lightening speed and is a fine finisher, particularly on his favoured left-foot.
With two goals on his senior debut and two more in the Copa Libertadores in 2012, it's clear the lively forward has not been phased by the transition to senior level. Porto's excellent recent record of youth acquisition in South America looks set to continue.
Yoshimar Yotún (Sporting Cristal)
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Peru finished in an impressive third place at the 2011 Copa America with a squad largely built upon experienced names, spearheaded by the European-based duo of Juan Manuel Vargas and Paulo Guerrero.
However, Sergio Markarián's squad for the tournament also offered a glimpse of a bright future for Peru in the form of versatile wide players Luis Advíncula and Yoshimar Yotún, both of Sporting Cristal and now 22 years old.
Right-sided Advíncula has since joined Tavriya Simferopol in Ukraine, only to temporarily return to Sporting on-loan. Yotún now looks set to make the leap to Europe this winter.
The duo have been key to Sporting's momentous 2012 season which has brought the club their first league title since 2005 and Yotún, in particular, has drawn plaudits for his play, either as a left-winger or, on occasion, at full-back.
His performances have not gone unnoticed in Europe, either, with reports linking him with a host of clubs including Fiorentina, Vitesse and FC Groningen.
Slight of build, but quick and agile, Yotún's marvellous left-footed delivery is his key asset and the main reason behind the comparisons with Peruvian icon Vargas.