One to watch: Gerónimo Rulli
Argentina is better known for the attacking players it produces but one of the country’s hottest prospects right now comes in the form of young Estudiantes goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli. With the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City and Porto among those on his growing list of admirers, it’s safe to say that the in-demand starlet won’t be Argentina much longer.
So who is Gerónimo Rulli?
Born and raised in La Plata, the 21-year-old stopper has been at the club since he was a kid. Rulli worked his way through the youth ranks and was even a ball boy during Estudiantes’ most successful period in recent history; a three year spell in which they won the Apertura title under Diego Simeone in 2006 and then the Libertadores under now national team boss Alejandro Sabella in 2009. This winning mentality was clearly something that young Gero picked up from his hometown heroes.
Rulli has also had the good fortune to be able to learn from some of the best while at Estudiantes. He shared a room with none other than Juan Sebastian Veron in the club legend’s final season before his initial retirement – he is now back at the age of 38 – and Rulli cites the experience as ‘unique’. On top of that, he has profited from training alongside top goalkeepers such as Mariano Andujar, Justo Villar and Agustin Orion, all of which has helped his development enormously.
An injury to first choice Agustin Silva midway through the Torneo Final gave Rulli his big break earlier this year in April. Impressive performances in his first three games were then followed by a run of 543 minutes without conceding a goal, rewarding the faith shown in the youngster by new boss Mauricio Pellegrino.
With just five goals conceded during his first 12 league games, Rulli tied down the number one spot and has been an ever-present ever since. He has begun the Torneo Inical in a similar vein, conceding just six times in the opening eight games of the season.
Those at the club speak highly of the fledgling custodian, with assistant coach Xavi Tamarit particularly ebullient in his praise: “It’s spectacular. He has amazing reflexes, he’s good one-on-one, and has excellent timing. He also dominates with the ball at his feet and with his positioning. But his reflexes are outstanding.”
The 6ft 3 Rulli, who cites Chilavert, Buffon & Cech as idols, comes across as humble and level-headed but also stresses that one of his key qualities is his calmness of mind in game situations. So far his performances have indeed been marked by a maturity beyond his years and an unflappability when faced with big game situations, receiving widespread plaudits including from world cup winning keeper Ubaldo ‘Pato’ Fillol.
Rulli certainly looks to have a promising future ahead of him and there has been talk that he could be on his way to Europe as early as January if Estudiantes receive a good offer. What’s more it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of imagination to see him stake a late claim for a World Cup spot. Although admittedly unlikely, there would be benefits to taking him along as third choice if only to gain experience for the future, especially considering Sabella’s well-documented links with Estudiantes.
For the time being Rulli maintains that his focus is entirely on having a good season in La Plata. Should he continue the bright start he’s made to his career it will almost certainly be a case of when, not if, he moves. Beyond that, he has all the attributes to become a future Argentine international and is definitely one to pay close attention to over the coming years.