This summer’s South American transfers so far
The summer transfer market is in full flow and, as ever, South American players are among the hottest commodities. What’s more, with the World Cup just one year away, there is an added incentive for those players looking to secure their place in the national team as well as those making a late push for a call up. Thus, ensuring they get the ‘right move’ gains further importance.
The bar was set high early. Months, years even, of speculation ended with the announcement at the tail end of May that Barcelona had captured the services of Brazilian boy wonder Neymar for €57 million. A tearful goodbye in the Mané Garrincha stadium was then followed by scintillating displays during the Confederations Cup, leaving even his most ardent detractors backpeddling whilst also providing the Blaugrana faithful with a tantalising taste of what can expect from him next term.
Doubts remain: Can he temper his theatrical simulation? Will he need to bulk up his wiry frame? How will he handle defences that afford him less space? What is certain though is that, while still not at Messi’s level of consistence brilliance, Neymar will bring a different dimension and unpredictability to a Barcelona attack that at times has been accused of over-reliance on their talismanic Argentine captain. One would imagine that how quickly he adapts to European football will have a direct impact upon the narratives of both Barcelona’s attempt to win back their aura of invincibility and Brazil’s chances of a sixth World Cup title next summer. It promises to be fascinating.
Equally interesting will be the arrival of another South American in Cataluña. Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino arrives on less of a fanfare but his first foray into European management will be just as crucial to Barcelona’s success.
Having won many admirers for his impressive spells with Paraguay and more recently Newell’s, who he transformed from relegation candidates to title winners, Martino’s style and studied approach seems a good fit. Inevitable similarities with Marcelo Bielsa have been drawn but are somewhat misleading, with Tata less tied to an ideological doctrine and thus more flexible – a ‘pragmatic Bielsista’ if you will.
While South American managers haven’t always achieved instant success following moves to Europe – Pellegrini, Tabarez & Cuper being notable exceptions – Martino has a talented squad at his disposal and, provided they bolster their defence, has all the capabilities for a seamless and successful transition.
Eclipsing even Neymar’s hefty sum, Ligue 1 has provided the two most expensive transfers of the summer so far, both coming in the form of other prolific South American strikers. The €60-odd million that nouveau riche Monaco and PSG respectively paid for Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani rankled many an onlooker, seen as nothing more than a pocket-lining downgrade, but nevertheless represents a sign of intent from the Gallic duo. Phenomenal records at their former clubs mean ‘El Tigre’ and ‘El Matador’ will no doubt tear it up in France.
Another exciting addition in Monaco’s spending spree sees James Rodriguez join his Colombian compatriot on the Cote D’Azur. Presumably the extra game time together with Falcao should bode well for the Cafateros, who are already all but qualified for Brazil and many people’s dark horses. Similarly, PSG’s outlay of €35million for teenage Brazilian centreback sensation Marquinhos could give Scolari further options at the heart of defence, as the 19-year-old trains with and learns from Seleção captain Thiago Silva on a regular basis. Though it would be a big ask to dislodge David Luiz and Dante in the next twelve months, Marquinhos is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Closer to home, the Premier League has also seen an influx of South American talent. The pick of the bunch has been Spurs’ capture of all-action midfielder Paulinho from Corinthians. Integral to Timão’s Libertadores win last year, he enhanced his reputation further with some stellar displays during Brazil’s Confederations triumph. Perfectly suited to the Premier League, he will slot in alongside the excellent Dembele and fellow countryman Sandro to form perhaps the most exciting midfield in the country.
Opting for more youthful additions, Manchester Utd swooped for Uruguayan right back Guillermo Varela while Chelsea snapped up Chilean Cristian Cuevas after both impressed for the U20s. Meanwhile, Sunderland looked on the verge of sealing Argentinian international Gino Peruzzi for a bargain price until a failed medical scuppered a move for the highly rated full back, while Manchester City added a Brazilian to their ranks in the form of Fernandinho from Shakhtar. Agile, dynamic and, importantly, versatile he will improve the Citizens midfield but at €30 it seems that they have paid over the odds, especially in comparison to Paulinho.
Shakhtar’s shrewd business sense has also been highlighted in how they have reinvested their money in promising new investments. Joining the already sizeable Brazilian contingent are exciting winger Wellington Nem from Fluminense (€9mil), Gremio’s defensive midfielder Fernando (€11mil) and quick, skilful Internacional midfielder Fred (€15mil), as well as young Argentinian striking prospect Facundo Ferreyra from Velez. All are hugely gifted and Shakhtar can expect to make a tidy profit in the not-to-distant future.
Porto, a side just as well versed in unearthing diamonds from Latin America, have also picked up some impressive talents this summer. Mexican duo Diego Reyes and Hector Herrera have signed for os Dragoes, as well as Colombian Juan Fernando Quintero. The young playmaker absolutely sparkled at the U20 World Cup this summer, displaying a dazzling array of skill, sublime technique and brilliant vision, and should fill the hole left by James Rodriguez’s departure. Rivals Benfica have been busy too, bringing in Luis Farina from Racing, Jorge Rojas from Cerro Porteno and Lisandro Lopez from Arsenal de Sarandi, the latter being a tailor-made replacement for Ezequiel Garay should he depart the Estadio da Luz.
Elsewhere, Gonzalo Higuain’s bumper €42 deal to Napoli dominates the transfer dealings in Italy, while it will also be interesting to see how youngsters Jadson and Felipe Anderson do at Udinese and Lazio. In Spain, Betis have been the club to most successfully tap the South American leagues with Rafaela goalkeeper Guillermo Sara and impressive Chileans Lorenzo Reyes and Braian Rodriguez also joining Pepe Mel’s promising project. Likewise, the transfers of Peruvian striker Yordy Reyna to Red Bull Salzburg and Colombian centre back Pedro Franco to Besitkas represent great value for money and are worth paying close attention to.
With over a month to go before the window slams firmly shut, there are likely to plenty more deals with South Americans as the main protagonists. The futures of Luis Suarez and Thiago Silva will no doubt be highly scrutinized, while the likes of Bernard, Leandro Damiao, Doria and Luciano Vietto could yet be plying their trade in Europe come September. A big year beckons for South America and its biggest names.