With the appointment of Martino, Barcelona have opened up an avenue for themselves – South America.
While Lionel Messi has been the strongest representative from the football-crazy continent, Barcelona have not scouted many players from South America, in recent history at least.
Martino’s arrival immediately linked quite a few unknown players from various parts of South America before the club decided not to sign any more players this summer.
However, it looks likely that they might sign some players from South America in the near future. This is perhaps a cheaper and relatively easier alternative than courting already established players in Europe. Ever since the arrival of Sandro Rosell, frugality has been a part of his tenure.
Right from removing catering events and bodyguards to stopping photocopies in colour to save on toner, the former executive of Nike Brazil has employed innovative measures to ‘balance the books.’
However, he has not hesitated to splurge on players whenever required.
Santiago Vergini (24) and Alvarez Balanta (20) have been linked with the Catalans in recent times. Relatively unknown, these players might just give Barcelona a couple of low-priced alternatives to the likes of Agger, Luiz, et al. That, however, doesn’t mean that they might be even half as good.
While Vergini is an established star at Newell’s Old Boys, Balanta made his senior squad debut for River Plate early in 2013. Vergini played for Italian club Hallas Verona in 2011 and recently moved to Estudiantes, for a reported sum of about €1.4 million – it looks unlikely that Mauricio Pellegrino, the ex-Valencia manager, who is in charge of Estudiantes, will let him leave. That leaves out the 20-year-old Balanta who is yet to make a mark.
Should the Catalans choose to invest in young talents from South America, it mustn’t be at the cost of their current defensive frailties.
An established defender, if not a star, is the need of the hour and in the quest for a better future, the present shouldn’t be neglected. While scouting Balanta, Barcelona should also look out for Igor Lichnovsky, who currently plays for Club Universidad de Chile.
While reports emerged that Getafe has already had an agreement to sign the youngster for a sum of £2million, it did not materialise. The point to be noted here is that if Getafe can scout him, so can the big guns of Europe. Lichnovsky’s composure and ability to read the game is second to none and is perhaps one of the pioneers of Chile’s recent emergence of young and talented players and probably a golden generation of footballers.
Dede of Vasco Da Gama is yet another young defender from South America who has raised a few eye-brows in Europe. Physically imposing, he is perhaps a younger and a better version of Dante.
Don’t be surprised if you see him in Brazil’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Doria, the Brazil U20 captain has already been linked to Chelsea and Tottenham and looks to be yet another interesting prospect. With Botafogo president Mauricio Assumpcao not willing to relinquish ownership of the young centre-back, who is often compared to the iconic Thiago Silva, for anything less than £11million – Doria’s talent perhaps justifies the claim in such inflated times.
Barcelona need to be prudent and patient or else they might land up yet another Dmytro Chygrynskiy who wasn’t necessarily a bad player, but a player who did not have enough time or opportunity to make a mark at the Camp Nou.
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