Video: Who are the stars to watch at the South American U20s Championships?
The upcoming U20 championships in Argentina (it starts tonight) will display some of the greatest young talents around, so who will agents be queueing up to sign?
By Adrian Collins
What makes the U20 championships so special? A lot of the time, it can be a real test of whether youthful promise can turn into senior achievement, and this championship has seen some of the greats play in the full flush of youth, including one Lionel Messi.
It is also a time when those players who may have had a physical advantage at a younger age-group see that tail off as everyone catches up with their development, so the fact that you were 6 foot tall and pushing defenders around at under 16 level no longer matters; this tournament is about intelligence, skill and ability.
So who should you be looking out for in the coming games and what names will be on your club's shopping list as a result? Here's a quick glance at a few of the stars expected to stand out this month.
A winger from the Peruvian league, he has been so outstanding for Universitario de Deportes that he ended up on Arsenal's radar last year. He made his début at just 16 years old, and went on to make 37 appearances, scoring eight goals.
He completed a move to Italian side Genoa, who snapped him up this month at the end of the Peruvian season. Expect him to light up this tournament with his creative play and his ability to set up team mates with great opportunities. Keep an eye out also for his Peruvian team mates Álvaro Ampuero (left back/ left midfield) and Edison Flores (winger) in a strong squad that could well take the title.
Already a star at the Barcelona academy, Rafinha (or Rafa Alcântara) is a player that will clearly make an impact for Brazil at these championships. His brother, Thigao Alcântara, also plays for Barcelona's first team but opted to represent the Spanish national side, unlike Rafinha.
While Rafa has yet to make the full breakthrough into the Barca first team (which is not any comment on his own ability it must be swiftly added), he will no doubt be an important creative influence for Brazil, who have begun to move away from relying on powerful defensive midfielders and back to more skilful players to control the flow of the game in the centre of the park.
Keep an eye out also for his team mates Fred, who plays at Internacional in Brazil with Diego Forlán, and 18 year old centre back Dória, who Juventus have been eyeing up recently.
Uruguay's ability to consistently produce talent seems to show no signs of stopping - probably a lesson for the Irish system, given they also deal with a relatively small population (wouldn't mind having a Liam Suarez...).
López is a young striker who can also play as a winger, and was previously rejected at youth level for not being strong enough. Uruguayan giants Nacional didn't hesitate to integrate him into their youth academy, however, and he scored on his senior début for them.
In last summer's market, he moved to Roma, where he once again scored on his debut in the opening game of the season against Catania, having been brought on for club legend Totti... it's not a bad goal either!
This guy already has Real Madrid and Liverpool tailing him despite being a young striker who has made less than 20 appearances for Racing Club de Avellaneda in Argentina.
Madrid were rumoured to have made an offer already which was refused by the Argentines, who want to hang on to their young star for a while yet, obviously hoping he has a great tournament to inflate his transfer value. Vietto is still only 19, but has made clear that he has great ability to pass short and accurately, as well as create space and chances for his team mates.
Speaking of his team-mates, his club and international colleague Ricardo Centurión has ridiculously good dribbling skills and can twist and turn defenders inside out, so watch out for him and Juan Manuel Iturbe too. The reason Vietto is so highly coveted is pretty obvious when you feast your eyes on the perfect hat-trick he scored against San Martín, in particular his stunning first goal.
Juan Fernando Quintero
Already based in Europe with Pescara in Serie A, Quintero will surely end up on the radar of a few bigger clubs after these championships, although he has already been impressing with his performances in Italy.
An attacking midfielder, Quintero is also reported to be a target for Manchester United, who will be watching his progress with interest in this tournament given they need to strengthen their midfield. He's a left footed attacking midfielder with great vision, and he will also present a danger from the set piece if he continues to strike them with real venom like this.