Best under-the-radar South American signings of the summer
South American transfers have dominated the summer market once again with James Rodriguez, Luis Suarez and Angel Di Maria commanding the three most expensive fees of the window. However, away from the astronomical sums splashed on these marquee signings, there have been a number of relatively unheralded moves by promising youngsters that have passed somewhat under the radar.
A raft of exciting Argentinian prospects has moved to the Old Continent over the summer. Angel Correa, so impressive for San Lorenzo, will continue his development under the keen eye of Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, while Racing lost a trio of young talent; Luciano Vietto joined Villarreal for €5.5m, Bruno Zuculini was snapped up by Manchester City and subsequently loaned to Valencia where he will link up with former teammate Rodrigo de Paul, bought by los Che for €6.5m. All four have bright futures ahead of them and we could be seeing plenty more of them in years to come.
Of all transfers involving young Argentinians, perhaps the best bit of business is Sporting Lisbon’s capture of Jonathan Silva from Estudiantes for €2.6m. On the surface he seems like a direct replacement for Manchester United bound Marcos Rojo – himself a former Estudiantes graduate – but 20-year-old Silva is more of an out and out left back than his departing countryman. Along with exciting young goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli, Silva has been a mainstay of el Pincha’s watertight defence ever since Mauricio Pellegrino took charge in early 2013 and has gone on to make over 50 appearances for his hometown club with around half of those resulting in clean sheets. Defensively sound and more than capable of getting forward with his customary powerful surges, Sporting have got themselves a cracking prospect who, given Argentina’s paucity of options at full back, could well be a future international.
As is often the case, other Portuguese clubs have also dipped into the South American talent pool in search of the next star at a cut rate price. The pick of the moves is Porto’s signing of Internacional’s attacking midfielder Otavio for a reported €7m. Pacey, technically sound and always looking to run at and commit defenders, the 19-year-old has had a €50m buyout clause added to his contract, an indicator of how highly rated he is.
The Dragões have also added Chilean centre back Igor Lichnovsky, a one-time target of Chelsea and Inter, for the modest fee of €1.5mil from Universidad de Chile, while rivals Benfica have acquired Santos striker Victor Andrade on a free. The move sees the Brazilian make a return to the club he played for as an 11-year-old as he bids to emulate the early form that earned him premature comparisons to Neymar.
Another transfer that caught my eye was young Uruguayan striker Franco Acosta joining Braga. The 18-year-old boasts a great record at international level, finishing as top scorer at last year’s U17 Sudamericano with 8 goals in as many games and then netting another four in five at the U17 World Cup in the UAE as the Charruas reached the quarter final. The latest in a long line of lethal Uruguayan frontmen, the early signs looking promising and in a few years’ time he could be worth a lot more.
One player on his way out of Portugal is Derlis Gonzalez who will move from Benfica to Basel for a paltry €1 million. The Paraguayan forward first shot to prominence when he netted eleven in fifteen for the U17s, earning a move to the Portuguese giants from Rubio Ñu. Derlis continued his good international form with 4 goals in the U20 Sudamericano early last year as Paraguay finished second and qualified for the U20 World Cup in Turkey. Loaned back to his homeland, he notched 14 goals in 32 for Guarani, helping them to finish as runners up in the 2013 Apertura, before another loan move, this time to Olimpia, in which he bagged 9 in 20 during a productive six month spell.
However, despite his good form, Derlis was deemed surplus to requirements at the Estadio da Luz and instead moved to the Swiss champions. Benfica’s loss is most definitely Basel’s gain and the RotBlau faithful will be getting a wonderfully inventive, agile and skilful forward with an eye for goal. With the opportunity of regular first team football and European experience, Basel should provide a great platform for Derlis to showcase his talents, as was the case with his well taken goal against Real Madrid. Part of a burgeoning generation of Paraguayan attacking talent with the likes of the Romero twins and former Guarani teammate Jorge Benitez (who moved to Olympiakos for €3.4m this summer), Derlis could go onto big things and in time prove to be an absolute steal for Basel.
In Italy, the biggest move of the summer involved young Argentinian pace merchant Juan Manuel Iturbe who joined Roma for €22million after an impressive spell with Verona. Often compared to Messi, Iturbe seems to finally beginning to realise his talent after a few false starts since bursting onto the scene with Cerro Porteño. Elsewhere, Udinese are one of the best in the transfer market and have continued stockpiling young talent by adding young Uruguayan striker Rodrigo Aguirre, Ecuadorian defender Gabriel Corozo from LDU Quito and Chilean Matias Ramirez from Palestino to their ranks.
However, the one team that really stand out in their dealings is Torino. Il Toro have strengthened ahead of their Europa league campaign by adding Uruguayan centre back Gaston Silva for €2.5million from Defensor Sporting, Argentinian midfielder Juan Sanchez Miño for €3.2million from Boca Juniors and Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez (above) from Swiss side Young Boys. 20-year-old Silva has been a regular for Uruguay at U17 and U20 level and reportedly turned down offers from Juventus and Inter to join Torino. The impressive defender was also a part of Defensor Sporting’s run to the Libertadores semis and will be aiming for a national team debut before long.
Sanchez Miño, a little older at 24, is a shrewd acquisition and will offer a dynamic and versatile option anywhere on the left side of midfield and even at left back. He burst onto the scene in 2012 with some standout performances for Boca in the league and Libertadores but after probably staying one year too long in Argentina he should now get the chance he deserves. Last but not least, 21-year-old Martinez is one of the rising stars of Venezuelan football and is an exciting addition to Torino’s squad. Short, stocky and skilful, Martinez is a bag of tricks and capable of the sublime. He does, however, need to add more goals to his game and will have to compete with experienced schemers Amauri and Quagliarella but nevertheless more than possesses the ability to flourish in Italy.
Although attacking players usually command the most attention, a few promising Brazilian defenders have made noteworthy moves to Europe this summer. Bayer Leverkusen splashed £5.5mil on Gremio 21-year-old full back Wendell, while Real Madrid acquired promising 18-year-old left back Abner from Coritiba for a nominal fee. But it was the highly rated Doria’s move to Marseille for £8mil that really stands out. A classy, left-footed 19-year-old centre back, he has been touted as one of the best young defenders in South America for quite some time. Despite reports that he was not one of Bielsa’s targets, Doria has a perfect blend of physicality, speed, aerial presence and ball-playing attributes and could become a hugely important player at the Stade Velodrome and possibly national team.
One promising Brazilian who has taken a less conventional route to Europe is attacking midfielder Felipe Gedoz. The 21-year-old winger made his name in Uruguay with Defensor Sporting and was in sparkling form as they reached the semi–finals of this year’s Libertadores, scoring four times. Club Brugge liked what they saw and swooped for Gedoz in a $2m deal. Lightning quick, great technique and a penchant for free kick specials, it looks like the latest piece of excellent business by the Belgians who have also brought in Colombian Jose Izquierdo to add to their January signing of highly promising Chilean striker Nicolas Castillo. A goal on his debut against Genk will have immediately endeared Gedoz to his new fans.
Though none the the above may have received the fanfare of Falcao, Alexis et al, their transfers represent some of the best business in bringing highly rated talents in for low fees and many could go to achieve big things in the not too distant future.