More Than Just A Pretty Mohawk?
The South American continent holds a special place in the hearts of many people, be they tourists blissfully unaware of the lurking sunburn, tough-talking drug cartels in search of a safe haven for their operations or the enthusiastic football fan saving every penny for a trip to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. It is the continent that gave us the storied rivalry of Pele and Maradona, the sport's greatest shock of the "Maracanaso" and the increasingly bizarre succession of hairstyles of Ronaldo.
And seeing as how FIFA
Führer President Sepp Blatter has condemned traveling fans to death by racism and stabbing in 2018, and death by sheer heat in 2022, we might as well celebrate football and the South American continent while we still can.
Incidentally, following the widespread circulation of the Barack Obama anagram "AKA a car bomb", another one is fast gaining popularity in sporting circles. This anagram—of Sepp Blatter—is reportedly "a corrupt, dinar-loving weasel" although what happened to the second "t" remains a mystery.
This week, we look at those South American players causing waves in the transfer market. A point was made to exclude any South American youngsters plying their trade in Europe, as those players already receive more than their fair share of the limelight. Instead, the spotlight was cast on those who currently play for a South American club and as a result, slip under the radar of the average football fan.
David Luiz, Alexandre Pato and Alexis Sanchez are just a few of the top South American footballers we will not talk about. Also, despite vastly improved performances this season, Liverpool's Lucas Leiva is still little better than a steaming pile of elephant feces. We concede that last bit is completely irrelevant, but it is just something that needs to be said from time to time.
So let us enthrall you, entertain you and tickle your funny bone with the tale of our search for the Top 5 diamonds in the South American coffee pot. Or, you know, something similar that is not a meaningless cross of two unrelated metaphors.
Pretty in Pink
Neymar da Silva Santos Junior has been on the footballing radar for almost a year now. Much like Robinho a few years ago, the youngster boasts the classic South American trifecta of lightning pace, outrageous trickery and an ego so inflated that Jose Mourinho might consider a paternity test.
There is little doubt that Neymar is a prodigious talent, but how well he fulfills that promise depends on the environment at his destination club and the presence of a firm guiding influence from the manager and coaching staff. At the moment, the molten fountain of petulance bubbling beneath the surface seems determined to erupt one way or another.
Whether he is knocking up underage "girlfriends" or flopping to the ground so often that the International Olympic Committee might consider awarding him an honorary gold in the high-dive event, Neymar is quickly going from the "Boy Prince" of Brazilian football to a petulant, diving, spoiled brat. The one certainty is that if the Brazilian keeps it up (no pun intended), his life will be a cautionary tale Brazilian mothers tell their misbehaving children in a few years.
As the process of rebuilding their aging squad begins, Chelsea lead the host of clubs interested in Neymar. Elsewhere, Manchester City continue with their plan to win the Champions League by simply buying every footballer in the world.
For now, Chelsea have the Brazilian firmly in their sights. How soon they choose to pull the trigger may well decide whether Neymar heads for Europe in a Russian helicopter or a customized super-jumbo from Dubai.
First there was Lucas Leiva at Liverpool. Then there was Lucas Piazon who Chelsea signed for about £5m. But judging from the £80m buyout clause Sao Paulo have reportedly attached to his contract, this might be the only Lucas worth pursuing. When he isn't masquerading as a Theo Walcott lookalike, Lucas Rodrigues Moura da Silva can be found weaving his magic in an attacking midfield capacity.
These days, the value of a player in the transfer market is directly correlated to the number of YouTube videos proclaiming him as the next big thing. And while by that logic Robinho should now be the greatest footballer of all time, we do believe that Lucas is the real deal.
At the tender age of 18, the pace, agility and spirit of genuine hard work ingrained in Lucas can be summed up in this goal he scored for the Brazil U-20 side. Incidentally, the very next goal in that video shows his eye for a defence-splitting pass that players like Xavi and Fabregas work so hard to perfect. And unlike many of his contemporary emerging stars, Lucas seems to respect the sport enough not to mar his displays with unnecessary dives and play-acting.
The emergence of Lucas Rodriguez as a star so shortly after his compatriots Lucas Piazon and Lucas Leiva proves, if nothing else, that Brazilian family planning kits should include a book on baby names. Elsewhere, a source who preferred to remain anonymous (due to the distinct possibility that he is a figment of the author's imagination) alleged that the Chelsea scouting team was politely surprised when a Kaka lookalike got off the plane from Sao Paulo, claiming to be Lucas and asking where his contract was.
There is clearly very little to be said here. Orozco is Venezuelan, diminutive and as lethal as he is tiny. At a modest 5'4", Orozco can operate as an attacking midfielder as well as a winger.
Wolfsburg reportedly tied up a deal for the youngster as early as January, providing him the perfect springboard to bigger and better things in Europe (with the greatest respect to the German outfit).
As far as clubs go, Real Madrid and Barcelona seem to get along just fine. Of course, there is that small matter of them absolutely despising every inch of each other.
This enmity was blown way out of proportion by the heavily disputed transfer of the original Argentine artiste in the 1950s. The maelstrom of hatred, abuse and name-calling surrounding the diabolically complicated transfer of one Alfredo di Stefano never actually died away. Of course, there were always players like the absolutely imbecilic Luis Figo to fuel that ever-burning fire.
And now, with Barcelona courting the latest Argentine prospect to whom Real Madrid have the first right of refusal, the never-sleeping beast of mutual loathing between the two clubs is set to rear its ugly head once again. And unfortunately for Sergio Araujo, he seems destined to be caught in the crossfire. Madrid have the right of first refusal on the Boca Juniors man as part of an earlier deal that brought Fernando Gago to the Santiago Bernabeu.
It says something about the enmity that we consider Araujo lucky that he doesn't look promising enough to inspire a bidding war. From the very limited collection of YouTube videos available (which, we shamelessly admit, suffices for "research" in our book), Araujo looks like a poor man's Angel di Maria. Or in other words, he looks like Angel di Maria.
Sorry about the pun, but you try coming up with something amusing after typing for so long that your eyes have long since rolled into the back of your head, the Earth has entered another Ice Age and England has finally won the World Cup.
Moving on from one Argentine to another, Erik Lamela is currently employed by River Plate and making quite the name for himself. Blessed with scintillating speed, sublime dribbling skills and an eye for goal, the 19-year-old has caught the attentions of Europe's elite.
More than any other player, Lamela's style and swagger is reminiscent of a younger Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentine can use both feet but prefers his left, which would see him as an ideal candidate for the right wing in the modern tactical climate which favours wingers who can cut in.
If there is one weak spot in his game, it is that he sometimes overruns the ball. However, that seems to be the dual product of his searing pace and the lower quality of pitches in Argentina, and should disappear once he comes to terms with his own speed.
Lamela is a big reason why River Plate have showcased some football this season that would put Arsene Wenger's charges to shame. And while that may seem hard to believe, a brief look at the Lamela highlight reel (above) is enough.
And then there is his sheer cheek...
A brief acknowledgement must be made that several promising prospects such as Alexis Sanchez, Juan Iturbe and Douglas Costa have been left out as they have already crossed the pond and take home multi-million dollar wage packets.
And with that, we come to the end of our brief round up of the best talent on offer in South America today. Only time will tell which of the current crop will join the big names (pictured) in the pantheon of greatness, but a move to Europe surely signifies the first step on the long road to becoming a legend.
Disclaimer: Bleacher Report withdraws any aspersions cast on the character of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Additionally, after a Bleacher Report executive leaked email evidence of Bleacher Report scribes accepting bribes to publish scandalous articles about FIFA, the author of this article was placed on indefinite suspension while (following the FIFA model from last week) Bleacher Report conducted an investigation into Bleacher Report. The Bleacher Report inquiry found that Bleacher Report played no part in the bribe scandal that Bleacher Report accused Bleacher Report of, at which stage Bleacher Report declared that Bleacher Report was unequivocally innocent and cleared of all charges.