Sunday the 13th July, day which could have been remarkably different for Argentina on the worlds biggest stage. The most viewed event in sporting history and merely a question of which of the two teams could rise to the big occasion and thrive under pressure. And although both teams really went all out for it, we all remember the final scoreline and how it could been very different for the Argentinian runners up. Gonzalo Higuain missed several clear cut chances which on another day or stage that he would more than likely finish, Lionel Messi look jaded after a long competitive season and consequently didn’t perform to his optimum levels on the world’s biggest stage and of course, the absence of the in-form of Angel Di Maria certainly didn’t help Argentina’s cause in their attempts to bring World Cup success back to their part of South America. But as Brazil had to do following their historic 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany, Argentina’s defeat offers a chance to look to the future and the next batch of Argentinian nationals who can lead the line for the future and inspire a new generation of dominance on the World stage.
In the past, it seems Argentina and top-class attacking players have a unique relationship, going hand-in-hand. The likes of Mario Kempes, Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta are just three of the countless world-class forwards to originate from the South American nation over the years. The legacy of these amazing forwards is continued in the current Albiceleste set-up, with ex Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino having the unparalleled luxury of choosing between Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuaín in his current attack. However, despite the world-class status of the class of 2015 quartet, it would be foolish for Argentina fans to be oblivious that such a strong attack won’t last forever. So with one eye firmly on the future, the South American nation’s attacking reserves look set to be boosted by a new generation of exciting, promising and highly-sought after forwards that in the last couple of years have quietly began to excel under the radar throughout Europe.
In particular, the Argentinian trio of Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Luciano Vietto. All three have started 2014-15 with tremendous performances’, promising attacking play and a hatful of goals and with each striker at the tender age of twenty one, the future looks very bright for the Argentinian national side in regards to attack.
Paulo Dybala made the big move to Europe back in 2012 with Palermo something of a surprise destination given the excitement being generated in his homeland over his performances at Instituto. Initially, the diminutive attacker had contrasting fortunes following his switch to Sicily with the young striker needing time to adjust to his new environment and a different style of football. However, with the Stadio Renzo Barbera outfit gaining promotion to Serie A this season, Dybala has had the platform he’ll had dreamt of for years and has subsequently burst onto the scene this season, living up to the hype that surrounded his move to Europe only two years ago. And although the current Palermo team doesn’t seem to be in the best form of late in comparison to previous years, the fact they have achieved what they have this season in terms of Serie A is largely down to how good the future South American international really is. After netting fifteen goals in twenty eight games for Palermo this season, the rumour mill has expectedly been in overdrive, with several transfer rumblings linking Paolo Dybala with big-money moves to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea to name a few in England – let alone the rest of Europe! As a result, Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini demands a €40M asking price, leaving only the sides capable of affording the Argentine with any chance of adding Dybala to their squad.
Mauro Icardi is another young Argentine striker scoring for fun in the Serie, already striking ten times for Internazionale this season, with the Argentine’s goals and a coming of age proving to be somewhat of a rarity in recent years for the blue side of Milan, in what has been a succession disappointing campaigns for the Nerazzurri. The sprightly attacker has taken an interesting route to the top having opted to leave Barcelona’s La Masia academy in search of first-team football back in 2011. A successful and truly worthy loan spell was followed by a permanent move to Sampdoria and this proved to be the real making of Mauro Icardi, with the 2012-13 campaign showing the footballing world that a star was born. Off the back of a campaign that heralded ten Serie A goals for Sampdoria, including a four-goal haul in the demolition of Pescara and a decisive goal to down champions Juventus in a 3-2 thriller, Inter Milan moved quickly to sign the South American star.
And although in the last league campaign Icardi found himself behind compatriot Rodrigo Palacio in Walter Mazzarri’s preferences, this term the young striker has been the attacking talisman and more often than not, the first name on the teamsheet in what has been an under-performing Internazionale. In contrast to the underwhelming performances on the pitch from Inter Milan, Mauro Icardi has been a breath of fresh air not just for Roberto Mancini’s side but also for Serie A, despite Internazionale fans directing abuse and their genuine frustration at their own players (including Icardi) most notably after the 3-1 defeat to Sassuolo. Significantly, along with fellow Argentine strikers in Serie A such as Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuaín, both Mauro Icardi and the previously mentioned Paolo Dybala complete the top four of the Serie A’s top goalscorers at the current time of writing for this season, demonstrating the sheer quality and influence of Argentinan strikers in Italian football, and more importantly the potential of both Dybala and Icardi for the future of Argentinian football.
Meanwhile away from Italy and the Serie A, the young star flying the Argentinian flag and scoring goals in Spain for Villareal is Lucianno Vietto, who really has been a revelation in his first six months in European football after swapping boyhood club Racing Club for a run in La Liga. The former Argentina Under 20’s forward was under the tutelage of Diego Simeone at the Avellaneda outfit and it was his predatory nature and quick movement both on and off the ball which really caught the eye of European scouts. In the end Villarreal used their initiative and took the gamble to bring Vietto to Spain in the summer for a fee of €5.5M, where he has quickly established himself as a player to that causes distruption to the defence of the opposition. At the start of the season Vietto was used as a substitute more often than not and was gradually introduced to Spanish football but after the halfway point of his debut season in La Liga, Vietto must easily be of the first names on head coach Marcelinho’s teamsheet. The gifted forward has scored eight La Liga goals this season at the current time of writing, including the winner against his former mentor Diego Simeone and his defending champions Atlético Madrid at the Estadio Vicente Calderón, combined with a consolation goal at the Nou Camp vs giants Barcelona and as a result, Vietto has been on the receiving end of several rave reviews. Back in December also, Vietto was named ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as December’s La Liga Player of the Month and it appears that the sky is the limit for this young hitman.
Interestingly, this talented trio have had fairly limited exposure at national age-grade level. Dybala has never played for Argentina at any level, while Icardi and Vietto have only a collective nine caps for the under-20 side. Breaking into the senior set-up will be a big ask for the trio however given the talent at Martino’s disposal currently, with Icardi claiming a solitary cap back in 2013 and the other two not yet considered. That said, with Argentina set to face South Africa in a friendly in March ahead of this summer’s Copa America, if the trio continue their current goalscoring exploits it will give Martino a selection dilemma that most national coaches could only ever dream of.
Article written by: @riowade_