The significance of the ‘Number 10’ in Argentine football culture is profound. The talented architects of their teams attacking cut and thrust, the privileged few are entrusted with unlocking the opposition’s defences, and leading the team to footballing glory.
Ahead of the new 30-team Torneo 2015 Championship which starts this weekend, Daniel Fraiz Martinez, founder of the excellent @FootballARGNews takes a look at five of the best Number 10s currently plying their trade on Argentine soil.
1. Leonardo Pisculichi | Age: 31 | Club: River Plate
The unsung star behind River’s success
Under a former distinguished Number 10 that is Marcelo ‘Muñeco’ Gallardo, River Plate have been enjoying a continued renaissance of late. With a domestic championship, South American cup and Supercup all recently added to the bulging trophy cabinet.
Though not always in the headlines, or as fashionable as the likes of Teó Gutiérrez, Matías Kranevitter and co. for those in the know Leonardo Pisculichi has undoubtedly been the architect behind Los Milionarios most recent success.
Brought in to replace the outstanding Manu Lanzini, Pisculichi emerged as a key player last term, contributing astonishingly to over 60% of his team’s goals since his arrival. His skill and guile proving him to be a hugely influential figure in the team’s renowned attractive, attacking style of play.
In a squad now containing new signing Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez, Argentina’s Under-20 playmaker Tomás Martinez, as well as the (potentially) returning legend Pablo ‘El Payaso’ Aimar, Leo Pisculichi can ill afford to rest on his laurels. Though all signs point to another dominating Torneo from River’s unsung hero.
2. Federico Mancuello | Age: 25 | Club: Independiente De Avellaneda
Independiente’s late bloomer making up for lost time
Like his side Independiente, Federico Mancuello burst on the scene much to the surprise of many in 2014.
A late bloomer, little was expected of Mancuello (and indeed Independiente) heading into last season’s championship, but such was Los Diablos Rojos playmaker’s impact, not only did he dislodge club icon Daniel ‘Rolfi’ Montenegro from the starting XI, but he also managed to have sections of the national media clamouring for his international call up to ‘Tata’ Martino’s Albiceleste side.
A technically gifted, some would say talismanic leader, with a knack of arriving late into the box unmarked. Should he continue last season’s form, Federico Mancuello could very well be a name up in lights on the international stage.
3. Luciano Acosta | Age: 20 | Club: Estudiantes De La Plata
Out of the shadows & into the spotlight?
When Juan Román Riquelme, ‘Argentina’s last great Number 10’, left Boca Juniors for the final time in the summer of 2014, all eyes focused upon who would be successor to the famous blue and gold number 10 jersey. To the surprise of many, the player chosen to undertake the daunting task was a promising youngster called Luciano Acosta.
Having played with his idol Riquelme, Acosta had demonstrated glimpses of his considerable talent prior to being cast into the spotlight in perhaps an all too abrupt fashion.
Frustratingly however, Lucho Acosta struggled for playing time in his first full season, and in particular after the arrival of new boss Rodolfo Arruabarrena. Eventually falling down the pecking order of a star studded, expensively constructed squad, so much so that a summer move to Estudiantes De La Plata was sanctioned.
At Estudiantes Acosta will be at club presided by another great of the Argentine and world football game in Juan Sebastián ‘La Brujita’ Veron, and tasked with replacing another talented (albeit somewhat less distinguished) Number 10, in the now Sampdoria playmaker, Joaquin ‘Tucu’ Correa. But the early signs are that the diminutive playmaker is returning to his electric, incisive best.
Therefore there is no doubt that Acosta is certainly one to keep an eye on ahead of the Torneo 2015.
4. Nicolas Lodeiro | Age: 25 | Club: Boca Juniors
The Uruguayan schemer with big shoes to fill
Attempting to succeed where Luciano Acosta failed, Uruguay international Nicolas Lodeiro is only the second man to pick up the gauntlet that is the Boca Number 10 jersey – post Roman era.
Unlike the former Boca youngster, Lodeiro is a player of some pedigree having arrived from Brazilian side Corinthians, as well having previous spells at AFC Ajax and representing his country at international level including the last World Cup and beyond.
Boca’s latest recruit will look to immediately force himself into an all-star side, and provide the ammunition to the likes of Andrés Chávez, Jonathan Calleri and Pablo ‘Dani’ Osvaldo and co. therein leading Los Xeineize’s to a long overdue domestic title success.
5. Fernando Valenzuela | Age: 17 | Club: Racing Club
The 10 of the future?
The ‘outside bet’ of the five, Fernando Valenzuela represents the precocious upstart that is emblematic of Argentine football as a whole.
An old school, direct, mazy dribbler. The left footed, pint sized, Racing Number 10 has already garnered the inevitable early comparison with countryman and Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
From the same prolific academy as the likes of Luciano Vietto, Rodrigo De Paul, Luis Fariña and the most recent departure Ricky Centurion, to name but a few, Valenzuela will likely begin the season behind new recruit and Paraguay international Oscar Romero (also one to keep an eye on in 2015) but such is the faith in the exceptional teenager’s talent, few would bet against Valenzuela being the next Racing prospect recruited to Europe.
You can keep up to date with all the results, news and views from what promises to be a truly exciting Torneo 2015 Championship, as well as the wider world of Argentine football in general, by following @FootballARGNews on Twitter.