Playing host to some of the most naturally gifted players to watch throughout the years, South American football runs like a factory conveyor-belt for world class talent. European giants, in the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and more, are constantly monitoring the progress of Latin talent with a view to bring their quality to new shores.
Despite the success of their international scene, where South American teams remain very popular across the board for their samba style and touch of all things flair, the continent’s domestic leagues never really get the same attention as their European counterparts.
For that reason, just who are the stars of South American football? And which faces, from the notorious ‘spiritual home of football’, can we expect to see rubbing shoulders with the big boys of Europe in the near future?
Once considered a near contender for Brazil’s most exciting talent alongside Neymar, Ganso has since seen his fortunes reverse in recent seasons. The now 25-year-old attacking midfielder may have dropped off the boil of late, but that won’t stop fans of South American football remembering just what a player Ganso was supposed to be.
After he was left out of Brazil’s 2010 World Cup squad, many were shocked but believed his time would come four years later. Ganso was also left out of this summer’s tournament as well however, and now, despite his effortlessly classy style of play, the silky Brazilian is watching his stock fall considerably.
He now holds the no. 10 shirt for Campeonato Brasileiro high flyers Sao Paulo. Having saved the club for near destined relegation last season however, perhaps a sly move from Harry Redknapp could bring Ganso to the Premier League, and see him play a vital role in keeping QPR up in the absence of Adel Taarabt.
Despite never representing Uruguay on the international stage, Santiago Garcia has been around the block at club level and is now trying to consolidate his career at home-town club, Nacional (Montevideo).
In the Uruguayan domestic league, Garcia is known as a determined goal-scorer with bags full of pace and strength in equal amounts. He may not be the most technically gifted of players, and he still seems very much like a raw diamond in need of a good polishing up, but this Uruguayan talent does possess several qualities that hold him in good stead.
At 24-years-old, now is the time for Santiago Garcia to really find his feet if he is ever going to challenge Luis Suarez or Edison Cavani for a place in the Uruguayan national side. Whilst a move this January may come too early for the exciting prospect, Garcia’s skill-set could see him fit in perfectly to the English game.
At only 21-years-old, Eder Alvarez Balanta is one of the most converted players in South American football at the moment. The River Plate centre-back has taken plaudits from many directions, and will soon likely be challenging both Mario Yepes and Cristian Zapata as the main man in Colombia’s back line.
The young defender, who has already been part of Colombia’s 2014 World Cup squad, has all the qualities of the perfect centre-back. He is powerful in the air, fearless in tackles and has the pace to make up for any error that may fall his way. Balanta is also known for his quick feet and use of daring skill in tricky situations.
Whilst Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United could all do with a centre-back of Balanta’s quality right now, Barcelona have reportedly been keeping tabs on the River Plate man, with a view to buy in the near future.
As was the case with fellow Brazilian star Ganso, Leandro Damiao is another man who initially burst onto the scene, only to see faith in his talents diminish after a series of disappointing performances. The 25-year-old had previously attracted attention from the whole of Europe as a teen, but now the Santos man is forced to prove himself once more.
The skillful forward is most commonly recognised for his ability to score goals. Whilst his record at Santos doesn’t shine too brightly in comparison with his goal tally at Interacional, Leandro Damiao remains a strong forward, who is both good in the air and adept with his feet.
If any side were to sign Leandro Damiao this January, it would purely be on the speculation that the striker can somehow discover his form of old. Tottenham Hotspur have been persistent admirers of Damiao in the past, but nowadays Inter Milan seem most keen on signing the unpredictable forward.
Whilst at 29-years-old Teo is no spring chicken, the Colombian forward has nevertheless gained attention for his goals at domestic level and impressive spells at the 2014 World Cup. Within the realm of South American football, Gutierrez is known simply as a dangerous finisher with a keen eye for goal.
His turn of pace coupled with his burly nature make Teo another strong contender to make a name for himself in English football. The likes of Radamel Falcao, Adrian Ramos and Jackson Martinez have so far dominated the Colombian striker circuit however, but fans of River Plate will certainly be aware that their star man should not be ignored.
Teo’s goal-scoring record has been mostly consistent in the Argentina Primera A, and despite his off-field antics perhaps rivaling that of Liverpool’s ever-controversial Italian forward, Brendan Rodgers could certainly use the Colombian hit-man this season if Mario Balotelli’s form continues to slide.