The South American continent has always been a hot-bed for footballing talent. These five teenagers are worth keeping an eye on.
Whether it is on the streets of Buenos Aires, the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, the dirt pitches of Medelin or the myriad parks of Montevido, football is ingrained in the South American psyche.
From Pele, Maradona to Messi and Neymar, the continent has blessed the globe with football’s most fabled figures of past and present.
From 21 World Cup tournaments, South America has come out victorious on 9 occasions.
The continent produces the most professional players per capita.
And now more than ever, the new emerging talent are accessible from every corner of the globe.
Due to new Brexit regulations, even destinations like England are no longer a fantasy for South America’s brightest talent.
Exemplified by 19 year old Moises Caicedo’s transfer to Brighton in the January transfer window.
FTF looked at five talents who will be hoping to follow suit.
Club: River Plate Montevido
Over the last couple of decades Uruguay have produced an embarrassing riches of elite forward talent. From Diego Forlan, to Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, 18 year old Matias Arezo will be hoping to follow in their footsteps.
The Uruguayan grew up in a Real Madrid crazed family. His brothers are named after David Beckham and Iker Casillas so it was only natural for the boy from Montevido to take up the sport himself.
He ended up at River Plate Montevido at a young age and where he has been extremely prolific throughout every age-group.
Despite his tender age, he has already made 57 appearances and has scored 21 goals and registered 8 assists.
Before turning 19 for the sake of comparison Luis Suarez only played 34 games and scored 12 goals for Nacional in Uruguay.
There are certainly flickers of resemblance in the two players’ style of play. Matias Arezo has the same physically combative manner on the pitch coupled with excellent technique that resembles a young and raw Luis Suarez playing for Nacional or Groningen.
Though for now Arezo is nowhere near as impactful when bringing the ball forward compared his compatriot.
Where Arezo excels is in the penalty area and his ability to find space and create chances for himself. In that regard he is more of a ‘Cavani type.’
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This is exemplified by the fact that the Uruguayan is currently the joint top player for most shots taken in the Uruguay first division with 82. He also had the 2nd highest xG with 15.81.
Naturally for a player so young, Arezo’s finishing can still improve he underperformed his xG by almost three goals and his 15.84% goal conversion rate is certainly a return which would be expected to be a little higher from a forward. Though perhaps in that case his 13 goals this season is even more impressive as it suggests he creates a high volume of chances for himself and is still capable of being prolific.
Nicknamed the El Buffalo by River Plate fans Matias Arezo’s boisterous energy and direct style is also an added bonus for an prospective future team.
His club have already slapped a £20m price tag on the forward meaning potential suitors will have to fork out a handsome sum for the 18 year old.
But judging by his already impressive goal scoring return and his room to improve on it, his prospective team could have an exciting player on their hands.
The suitable next-step could be through a well trodden path for South American talent into the Eredvisie where Matias Arezo would have time to adjust to European football.
After the breakthrough success of Diego Forlan in the late 90s and Sergio Aguero in the early 2000s, it seems like Argentine club Independiente are finally back to producing elite talents on the South American scene.
In 2018 lots of hype surrounded Ezequiel Barco having just emerged from the club’s youth ranks. Some even outrageously dubbed him the ‘next Messi.’
In the end Barco made the bold move to the MLS and Atlanta United.
Three years later Alan Velasco is making similar waves.
If anything the diminutive midfielder’s ceiling could be greater than his predecessor’s.
At 18, Alan Velasco has already bettered Barco’s five league goals for the club in less than half of Barco’s games.
But it’s not just his prolific goal-scoring that has caught the attention of scouts.
Alan Velasco is special.
He has an insatiate work-ethic and an aura of confidence around him which is a rarity in teenagers.
At 18 he is already one of Independiente’s best players and he can carry the team at times.
His brace against River Plate in a 2-0 victory and a goal and an assist against CA Colon during a 2-1 win is a testament to that.
Despite his small frame, Velasco can hold his own in senior football. The South American has the ability to shrug opponents off him and weave through defences. He averages 11.41 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 41.46% which is the 2nd highest in the Argentinian first division this season.
On top of that he is blessed with bulging thighs that ripple with muscle and can generate lethal efforts from long range as a result.
Velasco’s shots on target percentage is the 4th highest in the league for those who average 2 shots per 90. His 22.72% goal conversion is also the 4th highest in the league meaning Velasco certainly knows where the goal is.
And perhaps that’s the one factor which stands him above his predecessor Ezequiel Barco. Velasco has the flashy brilliance and the ability to go on marauding runs, but he can also impact games.
That will put him in good stead going forward. And it is why clubs from all over Europe will be looking to make a move. Most recently Newcastle United were rumoured to have an interest in the young attacker.
That move might come too soon, it is likely a less physically demanding league would suit Alan Velasco the best first. Spain could be an impeccable destination just like it was for another former Independiente great, Sergio Aguero.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Club: Independiente Medellín
Miguel Monsalve might be the most obscure name on this list. For many outside of Colombia he is an unfamiliar prospect. Nonetheless, for those in Medellin Monsalve’s inclusion will be no surprise.
He is regarded as one of the brightest prospects to emerge from the South American country in recent years.
Having captained the club at various youth teams and the U17 Colombian national team, Monsalve is already featuring regularly for Independiente Medellín’s first team at just 17 years of age.
The young midfielder has always been an early bloomer. Mosalve has been at Medellin’s youth set-up since the age of 4. At the time the club did not even have a category team for his age-group but they saw something special in Monsalve and brought him in to an older-category in order to keep him at the club. Since then he has been playing a level up throughout his development.
In fact the first time he trained with the first team was at the remarkable age of 13 before ultimately making his debut in a pre-season friendly at 14. Since his 16th birthday he has been permanently promoted to the club’s first team and has featured sporadically so far as Medellin look to bed him into the professional game.
Monsalve is a composed and intelligent playmaker in the same mould as James Rodgriguez.
The 17 year old is not blessed with an abundance of pace or physical strength but he makes up for it with his creativity and technical ability.
In the rare flashes he has played for Independiente Medellín’s first team he has averaged 5.6 dribbles per 90 with a 60% success rate.
He’s still adjusting to adult football, which is to be expected considering his tender age, and therefore at times Monsalve can drift from the game or struggle to impact it from his substitute appearances.
But once he adjusts to life in the professional game, his previous record at youth level having top-scored various youth leagues in Colombia is an excellent indicator of his talent.
Scouts will be keeping a close eye on his development as he continues to breakthrough the first team at Medellin.
Position: Central Midfielder
Most players will remember their first steps in professional football for all the right reasons. For Bruno Praxedes having made his debut in the Copa Libertadores back in March 2020, it will be recalled for all the wrong reasons.
The Brazilian footballer had not even come off the bench when amidst a fierce derby match between Gremio and Internacional a brawl broke out.
This was not just a brawl where players shoved each other around. Fists were used, legs were kicked like it was a cage fight or UFC. Players pummelled to the ground as the match officials tried to control the proceedings. Praxedes who was warming up pitch side got himself involved and was one of eight players to be sent off in the aftermath.
Thankfully Praxedes has left those ugly scenes behind him and since the latter end of 2020 he has managed to fight himself into Internacional’s starting eleven with some impressive performances.
Praxedes is capable of playing both as a number 8 or as a number 10. He is probably best equipped for the all round midfield role considering his astute reading of the game, his technical ability coupled with his physical traits.
This season he has averaged 9 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 55% which is pretty amicable for a midfielder. On top of that he also makes 2.92 interceptions per 90 and 5.8 recoveries.
Praxedes is a fairly accomplished passer of the ball too. He is not afraid to take risks and is good at penetrating opposition lines.
For U21 players in the Brazilian Serie A who have played at least 1000 minutes he ranks in the top five for through passes per 90.
Considering he has been predominantly deployed as a central-midfielder Bruno Praxedes is still a frequent dribbler with 3.16 dribbles per 90. He has an amicable success rate of 50% which is the 4th best for U21 midfielders in the league.
Praxedes’ best assets however are his technical ability and his physicality.
Standing at 1.86 metres the Brazilian is able to shrug off his opponents with ease when he goes on his marauding runs. And despite not being the greatest sprinter he can use his body to shield the ball from his opponents which makes it hard to stop him when in full flow.
Thanks to his frame and bulk, Praxedes competes in a lot of aerial duels for a midfielder (4.8 per 90) and has the best success rate for a teenager in the Brazilian Serie A with 49.28%.
Due to his physicality and defensive skills, Praxedes could have all the traits to move back to a CDM role in the future. That role would bring the best out of his style of play.
In that role he could thrive in Europe too. Praxedes could be well suited for a Serie A or Ligue 1 side.
Position: Holding Midfielder
When Danilo was released from Bahia at the age of 14, the Brazilian considered giving up football entirely to concentrate on his studies.
Thankfully he decided against it and joined local semi-professional club Cajazeiras where worked his way up the ranks all the way to their adult team.
There he was spotted by Palmeiras as a 17 year old and instantly snapped up by the Brazilian giants.
Two years later Danilo is now a regular for a young and vibrant Palmeiras side in Brazil’s top flight and has even been calle- up to the U20 Brazil squad.
A tenacious and well spirited ball winner, Danilo is in the same mould as N’golo Kante. He has an abundance of energy on the pitch and he’s also excellent at running forward with the ball.
In the past year he has established himself as one of the most exciting South American teenagers on the continent.
As well as being an accomplished ball winner, winning over 50% of his defensive duels from 8.95 per 90, where Danilo excels is through his distribution.
He averages 41.89 passes per 90 and completes 89.6%. Danilo tends to be productive with his distribution making 6.4 progressive passes per 90 with an 81.94% accuracy.
For a CDM, Danilo averages an impressive 2.4 dribbles per 90 which is a similar return to N’Golo Kante at Chelsea last season who averaged 2.69.
Danilo is very adept at getting himself out of tight situations with a quick turn of pace in the same way Kante has been doing at Chelsea for years.
And thanks to his energy he can also hassle people in the same way as Kante.
His 6 recoveries per 90 is indicative of exactly that.
Due to his physicality and pace, Danilo definitely has a future in Europe and it will only be a matter of time until he makes the leap from the Brazilian club.
But teams who want to grab him on the cheap need to act fast as he is already valued at £7.2m according to Tranfermarkt and with more impressive performances his stock will continue to rise.
All stats are via Wyscout.
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