A selection of South American U21 starlets
With the South American U20 Championship kicking off later today, top scouts will be keeping a keen eye on all the action as the look to unearth the next gems. Of the following list, only two of the players feature but all are under the age of 21 and have bright futures ahead of them. 2013 could well be a big year for these young tyros
The fresh faced 18-year-old attacking midfielder is one of the most gifted talents coming out of Brazil right now. A supremely skilful player in the traditional number 10 mould, Adryan shot to prominence after playing a starring role at the U17 World Cup as Brazil finished fourth. Much of the pre-tournament hype surrounded Chelsea’s Lucas Piazon but it was Adryan who took centre stage, dictating the play and chipping in with 5 goals in 6 games. Following Ronaldinho’s departure from Flamengo, Adryan has been given the opportunity to fill his boots and has made over 20 appearances, though mostly from the bench, and has scored twice in the Brasileirão. As well as having all the qualities of a modern midfielder he is also a dead ball specialist, scoring a beautiful free-kick against Gremio in September, and has drawn comparisons to Flamengo legend Zico. Despite having already turned down a move to Manchester United, it surely won’t be too long until the starlet finds himself at one of Europe’s top clubs. He will line up for the much fancied Brazil at this months U20s and an impressive showing will endear him to ever increasing line of suitors.
GINO PERUZZI (VÉLEZ SÁRSFIELD)
Thrust into the limelight when pitted against Neymar for Vélez’s Libertadores key quarter-final clashes against Santos earlier in the year, Peruzzi put in two virtuoso displays to utterly neutralise the Brazilian wonderkid. The 20-year-old had at the time just a handful of first team games under his belt but has now gone on to cement his place in a youthful Vélez squad that won the Inicial title despite having lost a raft of top players before the season. Though predominantly a right back, Peruzzi has been shifted forward into the right side of midfield and has adapted seamlessly showing that he is just as decent in possession as he is defensively solid. In a time when Argentina are struggling for quality full backs Peruzzi could be the man to fill that void.
FERNANDO ARISTEGUIETA (NANTES)
A tall, powerful, ginger-bearded striker; Aristeguieta is not your typical 20-year-old Venezuelan. He burst onto the scene at the tender age of 17 with six goals in his debut season, helping Caracas to the Primera División title and cup double. He was cruelly side-lined for most of 2010/11 season with a cruciate ligament injury but bounced back with 11 goals last term and has continued his sparkling form this year too with 9 in 17 appearances. At 6ft 2 he fulfils the requirements for a traditional target man, but his movement and great finishing display an altogether more well-rounded game. Half-Spanish with Basque roots, a move to Europe has been on the cards for some time with Athletic Bilbao long touted as the most likely destination but in a somewhat surprising move he recently joined French second division side Nantes as they look to return to Ligue 1. Nevertheless Aristeguieta has pledged allegiance to the Vinotinto and has already scored his first goal for the senior national side in a friendly against El Salvador. An ever-improving Venezuela will hope that he can form a deadly partnership with the likes of Salomón Rondón and Josef Martínez up front.
IGOR LICHNOVSKY (UNIVERSIDAD DE CHILE)
Despite his Slavic name, Lichnovsky is actually a talented Chilean defender, currently turning out for Universidad de Chile. A tall, imposing left sided centre back, he made his debut in the Clásico Universitario between La U and Universidad Católica and was awarded Man of the Match for his assured performance. Lichnovsky has gone on to make 20odd appearances for the all-conquering La U squad that won back-to-back league titles and featured in their devastating run to last year’s Copa Sudamericana crown. All that and he’s still only 18! A former teammate of Manchester United’s Ángelo Henríquez, Lichnovsky is calm, composed and good on the ball, while his aerial prowess means he’s also a threat going forward at set pieces, having popped up with a couple of goals already this season. Having recently received his first call up to the senior national side and with a whole host of Europe’s top clubs chasing his signature, the future looks bright for the Chilean. He was earmarked as one to watch in In Bed With Maradona’s 100 for 2013 and will be a key member of the Chile side at the U20s this month.
CARLOS NÚÑEZ (LIVERPOOL DE MONTEVIDEO)
Quick, skilful and an eye for goal, Carlos Núñez has emerged as one of the most exciting new striking prospects from Uruguay. His displays in this year’s Copa Sudamericana for club side Liverpool have struck fear into opposition defences around the continent. Núñez fired in 5 goals in six games before Liverpool were knocked out at the round of 16 stage by Independiente. An energetic striker full of running and guile, Núñez is still raw but is certainly possesses all the hallmarks of a quality marksman. Liverpool will be hoping they can hang on to Núñez and fellow striking promise Rodrigo Aguirre.
LEANDRO PAREDES (BOCA JUNIORS)
Dubbed as the heir to Juan Román Riquelme’s throne at Boca, Leandro Paredes certainly has a lot to live up to. Nevertheless, the young enganche is already beginning to live up to the hype as he looks to fill the creative void left by Boca’s talismanic idol. In this his breakthrough season, Paredes has provided the much needed spark often missing in Falcioni’s workmanlike side. He was the architect behind Boca’s close win over Union de Santa Fe and then in the clásico against San Lorenzo he inspired los Xeneizes to victory with a well-taken brace. Another brace against Racing shows Paredes certainly rises to the big occasion and can deal with the pressure thrust upon his young shoulders. Boasting a fantastic range of passing, excellent technique and the eye for a killer pass, then perhaps Riquelme wasn’t the last number 10 after all. Time will tell and, although he surprisingly missed out on selection for the U20s, Paredes should continue his upward trajectory in 2013.