Juan Sánchez Miño

Wednesday 22nd August.  Boca vs. Independiente.  Copa Sudamericana 2nd stage.  76 minutes in, the score is tied at two apiece and the hosts are a man down. Emiliano Albín surges forward, rides a couple of challenges but is brought down 22 yards from goal. Free kick.  Usually the bread and butter for mercurial captain Riquelme but, following the playmaker’s decision to leave the club, the responsibility to conjure some magic would now fall on the shoulders of another.

Up stepped 22-year-old Juan Sánchez Miño.  The stage set, standing over the ball, he waited, composing himself, and fired a sweetly struck left-footed strike over the wall that curled away from a flat-footed Hilario Navarro into the corner of the net.  The crowd exploded.  The gifted youngster had well and truly announced himself.  In the stands, national team boss Alejandro Sabella afforded himself a smile.

Sánchez Miño is by no means a carbon copy successor to Riquelme (Riquelmiño?), rather a versatile left-sided player equally comfortable at left-back, on the wing or indeed more centrally in midfield, even employed as an enganche on occasion.  While he has not settled on a definite position, he has however emerged in the last year as one of the brightest prospects in Argentine football and is reportedly being courted by Italian side Napoli.

Born on New Year’s Day 1990, Sánchez Miño hailed from the district of Saavedra in the north of Capital Federal, Buenos Aires.  From an early age, he began playing football for local side Juventud de Saavedra before moving to Boca’s youth set-up in 2001.  Although primarily a left winger, he displayed his ability to quickly adapt to a wide range of positions.

5th December 2010 marked his debut for Boca, coming off the bench against Quilmes, and his first start soon followed later that month against Gimnasia (LP).  However, first team opportunities were hard to come by and the youngster only featured intermittently during 2011.

His opportunity arrived in the Clausura earlier this year and he seized it with both hands, in what would be a breakthrough season for the starlet.  Decent performances in pre-season plus the necessary squad rotation needed for the dual commitments of Boca’s Libertadores campaign and defence of their Apertura title, saw Sánchez Miño given more game time. He racked up 17 appearances, 11 of which as a starter, and scored his first goal against San Lorenzo, helping Boca to challenge for the title right up until the final round of fixtures.

His contribution in the Copa Libertadores too was noteworthy.  Used more as an impact sub, he still managed to chip in with three goals – against Arsenal, Fluminense and in the semi-final versus Universidad de Chile.   Though both Libertadores and the Clausura ended trophyless, Sánchez Miño was an ever-present in the often experimental side that went on to win the Copa Argentina, giving Boca some consolation silverware while cementing his place as an important first team member.  This was highlighted by the fact he was given the number 5 shirt – one of the most important and symbolic numbers in Argentine football.

He has started this season brightly with some impressive performances, most notably the aforementioned Copa Sudamericana tie versus Independiente in which he scored and was the best player on the park.  Though still not a guaranteed starter, there are ever increasing calls for boss Julio Falcioni to include the young prodigy and the faint whispers of a national team call up are growing louder by the week.

Sánchez Miño is a player who possesses fantastic technical ability, boasts great pace and industry as well as a decent range of both passing and shooting.  What really stands out though is his versatility.  As mentioned earlier, he is at his most dangerous on the left side of midfield but is equally adept at full back: comfortable coming forward but solid defensively.  At times he has been used in the centre of the park and not looked out of place either.  An unassuming, hard-working and humble person, he also possesses the right mental capabilities to succeed at the highest level at any one of these positions.

In terms of positional preference, it is unfortunate that he is emerging at a time when Argentina are spoilt for choice in the wide left positions.  It may well be that his best chance of becoming a national team regular is if he dedicates himself to left-back – a long term trouble position for the national team – as there are far fewer quality alternatives competing for a starting berth.

For the time being Sánchez Miño maintains that he is not focussing on the national team and just on trying to give his all for Boca.  Nevertheless, if he continues his current trajectory it won’t be long before this lovely left footer is plying his trade in Europe and he certainly looks set to have a bright future ahead of him.