Why New Villarreal Signing Luciano Vietto Is Among La Liga's Top Prospects

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

Racing Club's Luciano Vietto, left, vies for the ball with Victor Ayala of Lanus at a Copa Sudamericana soccer match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia)
Eduardo Di Baia/Associated Press

The route to football stardom from Argentina to Spain is well established. Current national team superstars Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano represent La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, while the brilliant Lionel Messi moved a little earlier than most, crossing the Atlantic barely into his teenage years. 

But those three giants are just the tip of the iceberg. From the late Alfredo Di Stefano onward, Argentine talent has always played a massive part in ensuring that Spanish football is one of the most cosmopolitan, technical and exciting on the planet. 

This transfer window has brought a new group of hopefuls over to Europe with the dream of emulating their predecessors and finding glory. And out of that select few, new Villarreal recruit Luciano Vietto is a player that deserves to be watched very closely indeed. 

Eduardo Di Baia/Associated Press

According to the Buenos Aires Herald, the Yellow Submarine put up 5.5 million to take the 20-year-old striker away from Racing Club, the team which handed Vietto a first-team spot while just a teenager. With Bruno Zuculini heading to Manchester City and Valencia swooping for Rodrigo De Paul, the move means that the Avellaneda club have sold three of their young gems in the current transfer window. 

So what are Villarreal receiving for what is, in Argentine football terms, their hefty outlay?

The numbers sell Vietto a little short. Since Diego Simeone handed him his La Academia debut in 2011, the striker made 73 appearances for Racing with the modest return of 18 goals. But this statistic is a little misleading. 

Nobody in La Academia suffered more during the last 12 months than Vietto as the club lurched from crisis to crisis. At one point, Racing went through five coaches in 11 games after a nightmare start to the 2013 Inicial tournament, while club manager Roberto Ayala and president Gaston Cogorno also resigned during an institutional storm that inevitably had repercussions on the pitch. 

Club legend Reinaldo Merlo steadied the ship a little, but his dour, negative football was ineffective in taking Racing from the foot of the table. The Inicial tournament finished with the club in 19th place, and the final was little better as Racing jumped up just one spot to 18th.

If not for the vagaries of Argentina's average points system, the team would have been relegated, while Vietto seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders as he contributed just five goals across the two half-seasons. 

Luckily Villarreal recognise that while form is temporary, class is permanent.

Used correctly, Vietto is capable of so much more. He is an intelligent, hard-working second striker, adept at dropping deep and linking up with the midfield before bursting into the area.

Much of his strife during that nightmare with Racing last year stemmed from the fact that he was left isolated in an ill-suited centre-forward role. If the Yellow Submarine can avoid that mistake, they may be able to get the best out of their new signing. 

Vietto can score with both feet and his head. He has no fear when it comes to taking people on, but his best asset is his brain. If the pass is on to a better-situated team-mate, he will take it.

If he can establish himself early in the Villarreal ranks and break into the first-team, it could be an excellent season for both team and player.