5 Players to Watch in Argentina's Primera Division This Season
The Argentine Primera Division gets back underway in earnest on Feb. 8, as the Clausura campaign kicks into life and the top flight's 20 sides once more begin their mad dash to the finish line.
The concept of having two league campaigns a year, combined with the financial insecurity of many sides, leads to a highly entertaining and unpredictable tournament.
Squads change on a regular basis, and title-winning sides can slip to mid-table finishers almost overnight. The likelihood of them repeating their feat is, generally, slender.
It is a division where teams are formed in an instant and players can forge glowing reputations within weeks of their senior debut. For this reason alone, it can be fascinating to follow.
So, for those of you interested in watching a bit of Argentine football this campaign, let's take a look at five of the most talented players the division has to offer.
Lucas Mugni (Colón)
Attacking midfielder Lucas Mugni, 21, was one of the stars of the pre-Christmas 2012 Apertura campaign. His skillful performances for Los Sabaleros were reportedly enough to attract the interest of Italian giants AC Milan and Juventus (Goal.com)
There is, though, plenty for the playmaker still to work on, and that may be what has dissuaded his suitors. Mugni's tally of three goals was solid if unspectacular, but it is something he will look to improve this campaign.
Mugni did enough to impress greatly, though. The tall left-footer has drawn comparisons to the iconic Juan Román Riquelme in the European media, but he is a more dynamic figure than the Boca Juniors player—if less refined.
The Colón man does, though, have an eye for a pass and, with better finishing from those ahead of him, could have added several more assists to his tally.
He may not have made his big move yet, but with a good showing in this upcoming competition, he could easily earn himself a switch this summer.
Gino Peruzzi (Velez Sarsfield)
Velez right-back Gino Peruzzi is a recent call-up to the Argentina national team, having earned his stripes as part of the home-based side that took on Brazil in the 2012 Superclassico das Americas series.
In that double-header, Peruzzi kept Santos forward Neymar quiet across the two fixtures. Those performances are now his claim to fame.
Able to play farther forward on the right-flank, Peruzzi is a useful asset in attacking areas and a fine crosser of a football. However, it is his defensive work that has allowed him to stand out.
Positionally strong, Peruzzi is both a strong tackler and a determined marker. Indeed, Neymar is far from the only forward to suffer at his hands over the past 18 months.
Velez will hope to challenge for a league title once more over the coming months, having won the Apertura title before Christmas, and Peruzzi will be an important factor as to their chances of success.
Ezequiel Cirigliano (River Plate)
Over the past two years, defensive midfielder Ezequiel Cirigliano has become one of the highest-rated talents in the Argentine game, earning links to Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester City (Metro).
Often compared to his club's former star Javier Mascherano, Cirigliano has shown impressive discipline and reading of the game for one so young and has quickly become an integral member of his River side.
Yet to contribute a goal at senior level, the 21-year-old will continue to work on his game in attacking areas in the coming months. However, his dedication to the defensive side of his game is admirable and offers a great platform for his team to build from, with a fine array of passes to complement his team's flair players.
With River looking to challenge for titles in 2013, Cirigliano's performances will be a major factor in whether or not they are able to succeed.
He may not have the prestige that some of the club's bigger names carry, but it should not be long before he is considered their equal.
Ignacio Scocco (Newell's Old Boys)
Now 27, Ignacio Scocco returned to Argentina last summer following spells playing in both Europe and the Middle East—all of which were generally successful.
Newell's parted with a sizable sum for his services, in the region of €650,000, and have been rewarded for their investment, finishing second in the Apertura tournament off the back of the 13 goals he provided.
That was enough, in a low-scoring league, to see Scocco crowned as top scorer and, in the process, earn a call-up for the national side as they took on Brazil in the Superclassico das Americas series.
The striker played just 21 minutes as a substitute, but scored twice. Not a bad record by any means!
Another short, quick and technically gifted player, his impact since returning has been huge and, as Newell's attempt to go one better and win the Clausura campaign, his performance levels will be central to their challenge.
Juan Manuel Martínez (Boca Juniors)
A recent Club World Cup champion with Corinthians, Juan Manuel Martínez returned to Argentine football with Boca Juniors earlier this month, having failed to make himself a first-team regular in Brazil.
His capture was seen as a major coup for Boca, with Martínez having been one of the brightest stars of the Primera Division with Velez Sarsfield before heading to Brazil last July.
His time in Brazil may not have worked out, but there is no doubting his talent.
He will join a Boca side that, in many people's eyes, are still the strongest side that Argentina currently has to offer. The loss of Riquelme last summer was a major blow to the club, but it will be interesting to see how Martínez and 18-year-old Leandro Paredes take up the playmaking mantle.
A wonderful dribbler of the ball and linker of play in the final third, it is now up to Martinez to show that he can recover his former standards. As one of Argentina's giant duo, Boca will not accept second-best.