South America has always served as a breeding ground for future European stars. Nowadays, though, the scouting networks are so advanced that those emerging talents have the option of trading their homelands for the glitz and glamour of the world’s biggest leagues before they’ve even matured into the finished article.
Since the turn of the century, the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Alexis Sanchez have all made the switch at an early age to carve out hugely successful careers. For players, there’s never been a better era for accomplishing dreams in the club game as well as on the international scene. For clubs, acquiring this hot raw talent at a premature stage allows more time to help them unlock their full potential.
Due mainly to a lack of financial power, the South American leagues might not be as strong as their European counterparts. However, there is no denying that some of the globe’s hottest talent is discovered in those divisions. Quite frankly, the continent is home to many stars of tomorrow. Here are five that could be heading to European during the next transfer window.
Joaquin Ardaiz, Danubio
World class strikers are a rare breed. Therefore, you can’t help but take note when a 17-year-old is being dubbed as the new Luis Suarez. But that’s exactly what’s happening to Danubio’s Joaquin Ardaiz and while those links to his compatriot may be a little lazy, there is no denying that the 6ft powerhouse has the potential to achieve great things in the game.
Ardaiz has enjoyed a productive start to life in senior football and is already attracting the attentions of Barcelona and Real Madrid amongst others. Premier League clubs Liverpool and Manchester City are believed to be tracking his progress too whilst Porto have been long-term admirers.
The youngster’s physical presence and sweet left foot make him a great candidate for occupying the lone striker role and the B sides of either Spanish giant would be the perfect place to continue his growth as a footballer. Alternatively, a move to England could involve an instant loan back out to Montevideo.
It seems inevitable that the youngster will be trading his home country for the bright lights of Europe sooner rather than later. Don’t be surprised if the big guns are prepared to take a risk this summer.
If the player nicknamed the Bird lives up to those high-flying forecasts, it will be money well spent.
Gustavo Gomez, Lanus
If you recognise the name Gustavo Gomez, there’s a good chance that it’s due to the viral footage of his horror challenge on Carlos Tevez towards the end of 2015. However, the 22-year-old central defender is quickly making a big name for himself in the inner football circles. If he continues his impressive start to the current Argentine Primera Division season, a move to Europe could soon materialise.
Despite his age, the Paraguayan boasts over 100 senior club appearances in total and is already a regular feature in the Guaranies national team, scoring on his international debut back in 2013. The ever-present Gomez has been particularly impressive in the early weeks of the current campaign, helping Lanus to multiple clean sheets and an early bid to top their section of the tournament.
The youngster has developed a fantastic level of composure on the ball, which has complemented the raw defensive attributes of great aerial ability and tackling. Potential European suitors will be particularly pleased with Gomez’s ability to spot danger and get himself in the right position to block danger.
Whether he’d be ready to settle in at a top side is a little questionable but, with the right tuition, he could certainly do a job at a mid-table side in one of Europe’s big leagues. Time is still very much on Gomez’s side, and a move doesn’t necessarily need to come this summer. However, it would seem that a future in Europe beckons at some stage in the not too distant future.
Should the Paraguayan continue to perform with such authority over the coming months, Lanus may need to cash in far sooner than they’d originally planned.
Douglas Santos, Atletico Mineiro
Young Brazilian left-back Douglas Santos has already had one shot at life in Europe after signing for Granada, before quickly being loaned out to Italian side Udinese, in 2013. The Serie A side were impressed enough to make a permanent deal but the former Nautico man has since returned to Brazil with Atletico Mineiro. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old could be back on European shores before the end of 2016.
Santos has worked his way into the Brazil U23 squad ahead of the Rio Olympics and could see his stock rise after that tournament. This could convince a number of European onlookers to act this summer rather than taking that risk. After all, it wouldn’t take a record-breaking fee to prize him away from Independencia, especially at Mineiro only paid €3m for the left-back’s services.
A.C Milan were widely tipped to make a bid when Santos was still at Udinese and the San Siro giants could be one of various Serie A clubs ready to swoop. Either way, the prior experiences of European football could stand one of Brazilian football’s most consistent full-backs in great stead ahead of his second stint on the continent.
Like most Brazilian full-backs, Santos has the ability to get forward an attack too. The versatility of being able to operate further up the field is yet another string to his bow. At a time where clubs have squad limits, the consistent Mineiro man could be a very tempting prospect indeed.
Adrian Cubas, Boca Juniors
The city of Buenos Aries is one of the world’s great football destinations, and Boca Juniors are unquestionably one of the biggest clubs on the planet. Their universal attraction has often emanated from their ability to mould raw talent in preparation for European domination. Right now it appears that Adrian Cubas is the prime candidate to be their next truly successful export.
At 19, Cubas is still working his way to becoming a star in his homeland but the early signs have been positive. Perhaps more crucially, the Argentina U20 international has started the current campaign in a far more important role. Whilst he isn’t quite indispensable to Guillermo Barros Scelotto’s side, the teen is now a regular feature.
The diminutive 5ft 4in figure has done little to turn off interest from Europe, and Cubas’s technical qualities make him seemingly destined for a bright future in the game. Italian champions Juventus have been long-term followers of his development and could be keen to pounce this summer, particularly if the midfielder continues to perform between now and then. However, the Serie A side should be prepared for stiff competition from La Liga.
A top European club is the only destination that Cubas will be prepared to trade the Bombonera for, but this summer could be the perfect timing for the No.20 to do just that. Right now, he is the most exciting midfield talent in the Argentine league, but the allure of Europe might be too grand to resist.
If he does leave, though, there’s a good chance that he’ll return the hero later in his career. For now, though, he is one of the hottest prospects for a summer switch.
Brazilian football has produced more attacking superstars than any other nation over the years, and Santos is undoubtedly one of the leading production lines in the country. The conveyor belt that has already developed the likes of both Pele and Neymar has a new future star on its hands in the form of Gabriel Barbosa, otherwise known as Gabigol, and the battle for his signature this summer could be explosive.
European clubs have been aware of the 19-year-old ever since Neymar joined Barcelona three years ago, and the teenager has quickly grown to fulfil the void left by his compatriot to become the main man at Vila Belmiro. Arsenal’s eagerness to sign the tricky No.10 has been particularly transparent over the past year or so, but Arsene Wenger’s side have since been joined by a host of European heavyweights. With the youngster widely tipped to play a starring role at this summer’s Rio Olympics, his stock will rise over the coming months. Once the first move is made, we can expect this to become one of the most intriguing transfer stories of the transfer window.
Unlike a number of recent Brazilian exports, Gabigol has the personality and passion to match the potential talent. The versatile left-footed attacker still has a lot of developing to do, but there is no question that he has the attributes needed to follow his former teammate to the top.
A move to Europe looks imminent and Santos certainly won’t be short of potential suitors. The youngster has announced his desire to join the formidable South American trio at Barcelona, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he is the next big name to rock up at the Camp Nou.
Wherever Gabigol ends up, though, it will be fascinating to see how he develops.
Check out our blog on Brazilian Wonderkids