This summer’s South American signings you might have missed
(Article first featured on Lovely Left Foot)
The transfer window now slammed firmly closed behind us, this summer has, as ever, seen some of the top players from South America make the much trodden route across to Europe. Plenty has been written about the big money moves of talented youngsters such as Oscar to Chelsea and Lucas Moura to Paris Saint Germain, but who have been some of the more under the radar bargain buys?
One move that has perhaps not received quite the same coverage, despite the involvement of a club the size of Manchester United, is that of Angelo Henriquez from Universidad de Chile. The 18-year-old striker moved for a fee of around £4m after interest from noisy neighbours Man City prompted Utd to act swiftly on a player they have had first option for some while.
What marks Henriquez out is a maturity in front of goal that belies his tender years. His composure, decision-making and ability to handle pressure situations suggest he could go on to be yet another shrewd signing by Sir Alex.
Henriquez is not the only player to leave Universidad de Chile for a surprisingly low fee. Junior Fernandes has moved to Leverkusen for an undisclosed amount, thought to be around €3mil, while possibly the biggest transfer coup from the Chilean tri-champions is Marcelo Diaz’s transfer to Basel for $4mil. Diaz was the metronome at the hub of La U’s swashbuckling style and even earned the tag of the South American Xavi. At 25, he has time to improve and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him at a bigger club within a few years.
While La U have attracted many headlines over the last 18 months, some of the other recent Chilean exports have escaped the same focus. Foremost among them is former Universidad Catolica playmaker Felipe Gutierrez (above), who has moved to FC Twente for a sum of $3.7m. A very skilful diminutive midfielder blessed with good dribbling and shooting ability, Gutierrez was the one bright light in a disappointing campaign for Catolica and I believe Twente have got themselves a fine player. The 21-year-old has a great scoring record from midfield and he has already netted two goals for his new side, who sit top of the Eredivise with five wins from five.
Another transfer that went fairly unnoticed was Uruguay’s promising centre back Alexis Rolin trading Nacional of Montevideo for Catania in Serie A. Part of the Olympic side that proved to a massive disappointment, Rolin has nevertheless impressed back home, helping Nacional to two consecutive titles. A tall, classy defender with a good reading of the game Rolin has drawn comparisons to Thiago Silva and a fee of around €5mil is a very reasonable price.
Over in Colombia, two Atletico Nacional players have also packed their bags for Italy. Explosive striker Dorlan Pabon, one of the stars of this year’s Copa Libertadores has joined Parma for a bargain price of €4million plus add-ons. Quick, powerful and deadly accurate with a penchant for the occasional golazo, Pabon has the potential to become a favourite with the I Crociati faithful.
Atletico’s other alumni now plying his trade in Italy is Juan Fernando Quintero, who has made the switch to Pescara for a paltry sum of $2.5mil. Hailing from the Envigado youth system that has produced the likes of James Rodriguez and Fredy Guarin, the 19-year-old is the latest talent to come out of Colombia. Boasting an exquisite range of passing and comfortable in the centre of the park or on either flank, Quintero has all the hallmarks of an all-round modern midfielder and could be an absolute steal if he continues his current trajectory. Club president Daniele Sebastiani has marked him out as a direct replacement for Marco Verratti, who moved to PSG this summer, and Quintero has already begun to repay the faith shown in him, marking his debut with an assist.
Two of the biggest deals to come out of Argentina were for teenagers who were turning out in the second division last season. Instituto striker Paulo Dybala became the latest South American recruit at Palermo for around €12mil, while River Plate’s Lucas Ocampos, who had been linked with both Manchester clubs, made the slightly puzzling decision to join Monaco for €16mil: a mind-boggling amount for a second division side! Both are extremely highly rated and though the fees involved were much higher than those already discussed, the fact that neither ended up at one of Europe’s elite means that their moves may have slipped somewhat unnoticed for some fans.
Finally, Augusto Fernandez to Celta Vigo from Velez for a mere €1.6mil reflects one of the more prudent signings from Argentina. Transformed since his failed spell at St. Etienne, Fernandez has been one of the top performers in the Primera Division over the last 24 months and the price, in my eyes, represents great value. Obviously keen to have another crack at Europe, newly promoted Galicians will hope that Fernandez can continue his good form in what is likely to be a tough season.