10 South American Youngsters Outside of Brazil and Argentina Bound for Europe
South America has produced some of the finest football players the world has ever seen, with much of the attention rightfully focused on the talents of Brazil and Argentina.
While that is fair enough, it must also be said that there has been plenty of talent produced elsewhere across the continent—and it would appear that the likes of Chile, Peru and Colombia, in particular, are set for even brighter times ahead.
With the continent's Under-17 and Under-20 championships having recently taken place, a number of players have firmly established themselves as top future prospects.
Let's then take a look at some players yet to move to European football who could reach the very top of the game.
Cristian Cuevas (O'Higgins & Chile)
Chilean left midfielder Cristian Cuevas is Chelsea-bound this summer, after impressing the Blues in a trial stint late last year.
Able to play anywhere down the left flank, the 17-year-old was one of the top performers for his country in January's South American Under-20 Championship—despite being younger than most of his colleagues and opponents.
A robust and combative figure who has hailed Javier Mascherano as an idol, Cuevas is quick off the mark and is an impressive crosser with his left foot.
Jherson Vergara (Universitario Popayan & Colombia)
Colombian centre-back Jherson Vergara will be arriving at AC Milan this summer, after it was confirmed that a €2 million deal is in place to secure his capture.
Vergara was central to the junior Cafeteros side that impressed in winning the South American Youth Championship, and will surely once more take his place at the centre of the back four at this summer's age level World Cup.
While unlikely to threaten the Milan first-team initially, Vergara will hope to develop his game at the San Siro—while in countryman Cristian Zapata, he will have an excellent guide.
A strong and powerful figure at the heart of the defence, we should get a better idea of Vergara's potential in the 12 months to come.
Yordy Reyna (Alianza Lime & Peru)
Peruvian striker Yordy Reyna is leading the way for an emerging generation of Peruvian talents, with the striker this year progressing from Under-20 to senior national team progression.
With searing pace over a short distance and excellent control when finishing, Reyna is an expert at running the channels and leaving his defender for dead.
He has also shown in high pressure games with Alianza that he is capable of performing in even the most hostile environment.
Reyna has been linked to Schalke in the Peruvian media, with his agent the same as that of Jefferson Farfan, while Shakhtar Donetsk also lurk on the radar according to Peruvian newspaper Aja. (Spanish)
A bright future surely awaits if he can continue his progression in Europe.
Nicolas Castillo (Universidad Catolica & Chile)
Nicolas Castillo has been another rising star of the South American game of the past 12 months, capped with five goals for Chile at the South American Under-20 Championship in January.
A confrontational and hardworking striker, Castillo uses his strength and attitude to his advantage to make the most of his natural talents.
The Chilean is intelligent in his positional play, possesses fine technique and also has shown to be strong in the air. If he can continue to prove himself at senior level, he should go on to have a fine career.
Links to Europe have been plentiful, according to TuttoMercatoWeb (h/t TransferMarketweb.com) but tentative so far. In time, though, he will surely progress to the highest levels of the footballing game.
Sebastian Martinez (Universidad De Chile & Chile)
La U midfielder Sebastian Martinez is one of the most highly rated defensive midfield talents in South American football having made his debut his senior debut at the age of 18.
Now approaching his 20th birthday, Martinez is an established member of the Universidad de Chile side and is surely close to making his Chile debut.
A composed figure at the base of the midfield, the La U prospect breaks play well before spreading possession to his teammates.
A key member of the impressive current Chile Under-20 generation, Martinez will be one play that major European sides are keeping an eye on this summer.
Juan Pablo Nieto (Alianza Petrolera & Colombia)
Colombian attacking midfielder Juan Pablo Nieto will miss out on the Under-20 World Cup in the summer after suffering a fractured fibula in March.
Gianlucadimarzio.com (h/t ESPN FC) reports, though, have suggested that the 20-year-old could be bound for Europe in the coming months, with Udinese linked.
A creative and technically gifted presence, Nieto has shown for his club that he is capable of influencing games at senior level and has chipped in with some valuable goals.
His link-up play with Juan Fernando Quintero for Colombia's Under-20 side was outstanding, and it seems he may soon join his international colleague in Italy's Serie A.
Igor Lichnovsky (Universidad De Chile & Chile)
Universidad de Chile defender Igor Lichnovsky has already been on the radar of many of Europe's top sides for a couple of years, having made his first-team debut back in 2011.
Now 19, the centre-back is rated as one of the best in his country. Despite not being the quickest, he reads the game well and is technically sound. It is rare to see him caught out of position or embarrassed by an opponent.
Lichnovsky has been the captain and star of Chile's Under-20 side, and will go on to play the World Cup in Turkey later this summer. His partnership with fellow La U player Valber Huerta in defence will undoubtedly be key.
The Mirror previously linked Chelsea and Inter Milan with having an interest in his services, and it will be interesting to see where he may end up during the coming transfer window.
Diego Laxalt (Defensor Sporting & Uruguay)
Uruguayan left winger is another 2013 South American Youth Championship graduate to have already lined up better things, with a move to Inter Milan agreed for the summer.
"Playing in Europe has been my objective since I was a child and wearing the Inter shirt was my dream," he told Calciomercato.com via Sports Mole, following the confirmation of his move.
Industrious, while also possessing pace in abundance, Laxalt was one of Uruguay's stars at the tournament as he wreaked havoc from his role on the left of midfield.
Laxalt is yet to make himself a first-team regular at Defensor Sporting, and will require patience if he is to succeed in Italy. He could, though, prove to be a quality long-term addition for the Nerazzurri.
Valber Huerta (Universidad De Chile & Chile)
The revelation of Chile's South American Youth Championship campaign, Valber Huerta firmly placed his name among both his country and the continent's top youth talents.
A calm and composed centre-back, Huerta has been tipped to make a move to Europe, and while Italy remains the most likely destination, the truth is that he could succeed anywhere on the old continent.
Alongside club colleague Lichnovsky, he formed a fine partnership for his country—earning great praise. Chile, though, faded in the second half of the tournament, as Huerta too dropped from the limelight.
Now, the young defender must prove that his ability is at the level shown in those early stages. He has been making small strides at senior level, and is highly rated at youth level, meaning that someone in Europe will surely take a punt.
Gustavo Gomez (Libertad & Paraguay)
Uncompromising centre-back Gustavo Gomez is another player already making regular first-team appearances, as well as captaining his international side at Under-20 side.
Recently turned 20, Gomez has taken advantage of the opportunities presented by Libertad's Copa Libertadores campaign to obtain first-team football. Physically, he is far from out of place at senior level.
His technical abilities are good enough to take him to higher levels, and if guided into life at a bigger club, there is no doubt that he could become an excellent defender.
Gomez is still improving his positioning and judgement, but the foundations are already in place to see him succeed.