Argentina is home to some of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch, as well as some of the most passionate fans and prestigious clubs. The nation has won the World Cup twice and been runners-up three times, inspired by the likes of Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi at the highest level.
At club level, no country has won more Copa Libertadores than Argentina, with Independiente holding the record. Boca Juniors, River Plate and Estudiantes have also all won the competition more than any single Brazilian side, so you can definitely call Argentina a footballing powerhouse.
Despite all of this, there is a general opinion that the Argentine league – like Brazil – isn’t as good as European leagues, with players often not considered to be top class until they test themselves across the Atlantic.
There is a tradition of Argentine players plying their trade in England, ever since Ossie Ardiles moved to Tottenham in 1978, with mixed fortunes ever since. World class players like Angel Di Maria have struggled, while uncapped players like Julio Arca have enjoyed relative success.
There are a lot of majorly talented players who are yet to move over to a European club however, so we’re going to take a look at five of the best in the Argentine Primera Liga, and which European club they’d be a good fit for.
The man who inspired this list, Thiago Almada is a phenomenon in Argentina. Currently embarrassing defences with Velez Sarsfield, Almada has been lazily dubbed ‘the next Lionel Messi’ by the media – although which skilful forward hasn’t these days?
Able to play on both wings or in a number ten role behind the forwards, he’s already played 46 games for Velez, scoring nine goals in the process. Oh, and he only just turned 19. There’s not many European clubs who haven’t been alerted to Almada by their South American scouts.
In fact, he’s being tracked by a host of clubs. The most recent, as reported by 90min, is Manchester United lining him up as an alternative if Jadon Sancho moves elsewhere this summer, and also Man City seeing him as a potential long-term replacement for David Silva. Thiago Almada – remember the name.
Gaich was having a bit of a breakout season before the Superliga was ended due to the coronavirus pandemic, after bagging five goals in 12 games for eighth placed San Lorenzo. At 21 years old, Gaich has a bright future ahead of him.
A powerful centre-forward, he has an ability to find space at will and his finishing is so good that he’s drawn comparison’s with legendary striker Gabriel Batistuta. San Lorenzo will struggle to keep hold of him for long if he continues at this rate.
There are rumours that his next club will be Benfica, which could be an ideal move for him with Portugal’s ability to develop young talent. However, recently there have been whispers of Everton looking at him if Moise Kean leaves in the summer. He’s a very different type of striker, but he’d certainly keep Dominic Calvert-Lewin on his toes.
River Plate are one of Argentina’s biggest clubs, so it’s only right that they have some of the best players. Lucas Martinez Quarta is arguably the best defender currently playing in the Primera Liga; he was good enough to make his international debut with two caps last year.
A strong defender who is excellent at playing out from the back, Quarta’s become known for putting in dominant displays for Los Millonarios over the last few years, which has turned heads in Europe. There hasn’t been an array of excellent centre backs coming from Argentina in recent years, but Quarta could definitely buck the trend.
He’s of Italian descent, which has fuelled talk of a move to Inter, with the Nerazzurri expected to lose at least one of their excellent centre-backs this summer. However, with his value currently sitting at €10m, a club like Newcastle should be in the hunt if they are wanting to show ambition going forward, and Quarta could easily become a hero on Tyneside with his combative displays.
Zaracho has been threatening to become a superstar for a few years now. He’s been tearing up defences for Racing Club for three seasons in the Superliga and it may now be time for him to try his hand in Europe if he wants to become a permanent fixture in the national squad.
One of the league’s most effective and dynamic playmakers, Zaracho is most at home in a number ten role, but his range of passing and athletic ability have seen him play as a striker, winger, and even a defensive midfielder at times. He was the key man as Racing Club won a surprise Primera Liga title in 2018/19.
He’s the sort of player that would fit in to any club, but he’d be most appreciated at a club like Milan, who are crying out for a midfielder of his talent and versatility to get them back to the top. If the Rossoneri don’t go for him, there’d not be a single club in Europe where he’d develop better than at Borussia Dortmund, especially if they lose some of their best players in the summer.
As far as Argentina are concerned, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the English Fabricio Bustos. The right-back has made a name for himself putting in dominant displays for Independiente, which he’s since translated to the national team. Don’t believe us? Watch his debut against Italy, he’s phenomenal. It’s performances like that which have drawn comparisons with Javier Zanetti.
Bustos is a marauding right-back, with incredible vision and the ability to read the game which sees him very rarely over-commit going forward. He’s comfortable on the ball and lightning quick, a real talent who, at 24, may be looking across the ocean to cement himself in the Argentina squad.
Bustos is a proper modern full-back, who’d thrive in Europe. A move to Tottenham would be his ideal destination in the Premier League, as José Mourinho looks to catch up with his rivals in the full-back department. On the mainland, RB Leipzig are a bit short out wide right, and Bustos could fill that void for a measly €5m.
If anyone signs him for that price, he’d be the bargain of the summer.