15 Best South American Players Yet to Arrive in Europe

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IMarch 10, 2013

15 Best South American Players Yet to Arrive in Europe

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    South America's production of footballing talent is quite astounding.

    With traditional powerhouses Brazil and Argentina ever more supplemented by talents from the likes of Colombia, Chile and Uruguay, it is a production line that shows little sign of abating.

    With Europe's major four leagues regarded as currently being the highest standard of football available it is understandable that most talented players seek to head in that direction. Wealth and fame await anyone who succeeds on those lofty stages.

    Outside of that, Europe's smaller leagues also offer a platform to impress in both domestic continental competition. South American sides, Brazil aside, simply cannot offer the same financial rewards that most in the Old Continent can.

    It is a flow of talent that is unlikely to halt anytime soon. South American players will continue their annual migration to Europe as they have done for many years now.

    So, among all the talent that is set to arrive, who are the best 15 players yet to leave South America?

15. Yordy Reyna

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    Our first selection is one based largely on future potential rather than current ability. That is not to say, though, that Reyna is not already a very good player.

    The 19-year-old Alianza Lima striker was recently a key player for Peru's Under-20 side at the South American Youth Championship in Argentina. They ultimately would miss out on a top-four place, but Reyna was in fine form to collect five goals in the tournament.

    With blistering acceleration and an array of tricks, Reyna is a difficult man to stop when given time to build speed. A good linker of play, the Peruvian will reach a high level if he can refine his decision making and finishing abilities.

    Already with eight senior goals to his name, the forward will be looking for a good domestic campaign in 2013 before possibly securing a move to a higher level in the next twelve months.

14. Leandro Paredes

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    Boca Juniors youth product Leandro Paredes is certainly carrying a burden of expectation in his homeland, having quickly been dubbed the "heir to Riquelme" by the Argentine media.

    A talented attacking midfielder, 18-year-old Paredes has already begun to prove that he is more than just youthful promise. Four goals and two assists in his opening 13 league matches suggest that there is real substance to his media reputation.

    Surprisingly, Paredes was omitted from the Argentina Under-20 side for the South American Youth Championship in January. However, given their disastrous performances, he may be lucky to emerge unscathed.

    The Daily Mail reported interest in Parades from Arsenal last October, and the Gunners will not have been the only side monitoring his progress. Now, if he can prove that his good performances are no flash in the pan, then a move to Europe surely awaits.

13. Nicolas Castillo

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    Five goals in seven games at the South American Youth Championship have made 20-year-old Nicolas Castillo one of the most desirable commodities in football on the continent.

    Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported that Napoli, Anderlecht and Hertha Berlin have made offers for his services, while that list could grow with the Under-20 World Cup this summer.

    The Universidad Catolica forward has all the qualities to go on to enjoy a career in the highest levels of world football. With club and country he has demonstrated that he has the pace, strength, technical ability and judgement to go far in the game.

    Castillo will now look to better his tally of eight league goals from the 2012 season. However, if he has a successful World Cup this summer, he may not see out the campaign in his homeland.

12. Gino Peruzzi

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    Gino Peruzzi has quickly become rated as one of the top full-backs in South American football—largely due to a series of impressive performances against Brazilian star Neymar.

    A member of the home-based Argentina side, 20-year-old Velez defender Peruzzi is tipped to become a long-term regular for the Albiceleste once he is eventually able to replace the impressive Pablo Zabaleta.

    Able to play as a right midfielder, Peruzzi is a fine crosser of the ball and can be a useful threat going forward. However, it is his defensive work that has allowed him to stand out.

    Positionally sound, Peruzzi craves a challenge and has proven himself to be a fine marker of even the most tricky opponents. He does not stand for much messing around.

    Peruzzi will eventually move to Europe, it is just a question of when, rather than if.

11. Igor Lichnovsky

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    Now in his second full season as a first-team regular at Universidad de Chile, 19-year-old centre-back Igor Lichnovsky has long been rated as one of the best young defenders on the continent.

    Linked with both Chelsea and Inter Milan among others (Mirror), Lichnovsky's remarkable composure for a defender of such tender years has not gone unnoticed among the European elite.

    The Chilean—who partnered the equally impressive Valber Huerta at the recent South American Under-20 Championship—is unlikely to spend too many more years in his homeland.

    A fine reader of the game and a composed presence on the ball, Lichnovsky has the potential to be a leading light of his national side for many years to come.

    Chile, though, is blessed with somewhat of a golden generation of youth talent emerging.

10. Ezequiel Cirigliano

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    The "New Mascherano" that is being tracked by Arsenal and Manchester City. (Metro) For someone yet to set foot outside of Argentina, Cirigliano's reputation certainly precedes him.

    The base of River Plate's midfield, Cirigliano has proven wonderfully adept at distributing the ball from deep for his side as well as breaking up opposition attacks.

    Not renowned for getting forward, the 21-year-old Argentine operates best when allowed to set up camp in front of his side's back four and influence the game from deeper areas.

    Well into his second full season (ignoring Apertura/Clausura divides) as a first-team regular, Cirigliano already has a Second Division title to his name.

    Now it is a case of continuing to develop his game and a high profile European move will surely follow soon after.

9. Wellington Nem

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    Fluminense forward Wellington Nem may often find himself overshadowed by the likes of Neymar and Lucas Moura, but he still has plenty of ability to improve any side.

    Primarily a second-striker, the 5'5", 21-year-old has made himself an important figure for reigning Brazilian champions Fluminense—displacing experienced international Rafael Sobis in the process.

    Aided by his size and speed, Nem is a remarkably elusive dribbler and is often seen making surging runs into the area. Additionally, he has also proven over some time that he is also a good finisher if given chances to score.

    He must still work on some aspects of his game intelligence and experienced a drop off in performance levels in late-2012.

    He has started 2013 with a bang, though, and will surely play himself into contention for the national team or a move to Europe if he can help Fluminense to success in the ongoing Copa Libertadores.

8. Macnelly Torres

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    It is somewhat incredible that, barring one season spent in Mexico, a player as talented as Macnelly Torres is yet to play outside of South America at the age of 28.

    Torres, who can at times be a wonderful link player between midfield and attack, does (sometimes) fall short physically and can be battled out of a game. But, surely someone would have given him a chance at some point.

    What Torres can offer a team is a player who is excellent in retaining the ball, will rarely misplace a pass and has the vision to bring others into play.

    There are better players in South America, but when in form, he is as good as almost any of them.

    Time is running out for the Colombian regarding a move to Europe, but someone may take a punt on him as a short-term option.

    Fitness work would be required, but he could potential enjoy a four or five year spell abroad before returning home for his twilight years.

7. Arouca

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    Another who could have played European football long ago is 26-year-old Santos midfielder Arouca.

    He may have lost his place in the Brazil squad last week, but the fact he is considered a contender for selection demonstrates the high regard in which he is held in his homeland.

    There are a few better Brazilian box-to-box midfielders around, with the likes of Ramires, Paulinho and Fernandinho leading the charge. But, beyond that, there are few who perform as consistently as the 2011 Copa Libertadores winner.

    A physical player, Arouca is a good tackler and offers great industry in the centre of the pitch. He has proven to recycle possession well and offers the versatility to fill in elsewhere if required.

    European clubs have made enquiries in the past, but it will be interesting to see if the midfielder ever decides to have a go at proving himself in the Champions League.

6. Bernard

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    The current sensation of Brazilian football, Bernard, has carried over his good form of last season and transferred it into a blistering start to the 2013 campaign.

    Playing alongside the likes of Ronaldinho and Jo at Atletico Mineiro, the 20-year-old diminutive, attacking midfielder has made himself a crucial part of the side as they seek Copa Libertadores glory in the coming months.

    Bernard's pace and direct running offer what appears to be the perfect foil for the more leisurely, precise approach of the ageing Ronaldinho.

    A recent Copa Libertadores hat-trick against Arsenal di Sarandi in his first competitive match outside Brazil emphasised his rise to the top.

    It had been widely expected that the youngster would take his place in the Brazil squad for upcoming friendlies with Italy and Russia but that has not been the case.

    Bernard must wait his turn, with Brazil's attacking unit already relatively inexperienced, but there is no doubt he will eventually be an important player for his country and, no doubt, a top European side.

5. Charles Aranguiz

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    Chile midfielder Charles Aranguiz has been linked with a move to Europe for so long now that he must have begun to wonder if it shall ever come about.

    A central figure to the Universidad de Chile side that enjoyed such success in late-2011, Aranguiz's impressive ball retention and creativity place him a level above most of his opponents in South American competition.

    Bayer Leverkusen were chasing the player last summer, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera, but it appears that the midfielder is now Udinese-bound come the summer window (La Nacion).

    Udinese have owned 50 percent of the player's economic rights since 2011 and, with Aranguiz now 23 years old, appear to have chosen to act upon their option to buy.

    Anyone who has watched the midfielder in his starring role for his club side over the past two or three years will know that the Italian giants may well have got themselves a bargain.

4. Paulinho

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    The past 12 months have seen Corinthians midfielder Paulinho force his way into the limelight as one of Brazil's best midfield players, despite remaining in his homeland.

    A Club World Cup and Copa Libertadores champion in 2012, the 24-year-old has reached the pinnacle of the game in South America and his sights will now be set on achievements elsewhere.

    Paulinho—who has been used in conjunction with Ramires in recent international matches—has been tipped to join his colleague at Chelsea, while Inter Milan and Manchester City have also been mentioned (Metro).

    Whether or not he departs for Europe this summer is the subject of much debate. Paulinho himself, though, tends to avoid the speculation and focus on playing football.

    For all the distractions, his form has not suffered.

    The midfielder will return to Europe later this month for international friendly fixtures with Russia and Italy.

3. Dede

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    Vasco da Gama defender Dede came very close to joining Club World Cup champions Corinthians this January but remains at the São Januario club for now (Estadão).

    The tall, rangy centre-back is expected by many to challenge for a place among Brazil's centre-back pairing at the 2014 World Cup. For now, though, he remains behind Dante, David Luiz and Thiago Silva in the pecking order.

    Dede came to prominence in 2010, and by the end of the 2011 season was recognised as one of the finest defenders to have emerged in recent years.

    After an injury hit 2012 season, which saw links to Europe slow down, Dede is back in good form this campaign in helping his Vasco da Gama side to an unexpectedly good showing in the Carioca state championship.

    Whether or a move to Corinthians or Europe develops in the summer, there can be little doubt that Dede will at some point test himself on the European stage.

2. Leandro Damiao

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    Internacional striker Leandro Damiao has now been repeatedly linked with a move to Premier League side Tottenham for several transfer windows.

    Already, reports are linking the North Londoners with a summer return for the Brazil Olympic star (Independent).

    Damiao is the man tipped by none other than Ronaldo to become Brazil's next great No. 9 and, thus far in his career, the signs have been good (Goal).

    Tall and strong, Damiao has the ability to lead the line like an old fashioned centre-forward but has also proven more than useful at linking play in a more dynamic, fluid style of play.

    With good finishing ability off both feet and excellent close control, Damiao has all the tools to reach the very top of the world game.

    He is currently in his worst form for over two years, but will surely recover his golden touch soon.

1. Neymar

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    There was only one man who could top this list, and the continued presence of Neymar in Brazil is the subject of increasing debate.

    Whatever anyone's personal view on the 21-year-old's decision to remain in his homeland, it is his choice to make. Players are continually criticised over a lack of loyalty, so his desire to play for Santos should not be condemned.

    Whether or not it would have benefited the Brazilian national team for Neymar to have top-level European experience under his belt ahead of the 2014 World Cup is another question.

    With his decision made, though, it is a topic not worth all the column inches it frequently devours.

    Neymar will reach the top of the world game. It is just a question of time. Anyone who has seen the young forward's progression would be in little doubt as to his potential and his list of suitors indicates that major clubs also believe in his talent.

    Reports appear to suggest that Barcelona is the player's most likely destination, but it is now a question of when the move is made.

    Neymar has insisted he will leave in 2014 following the World Cup but has faced a recent wave of pressure to leave this summer if possible.

    Ultimately, though, only he can decide.


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