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Liga Profesional Scouting: Five young Argentine players to watch in 2024

River Plate's Mastantuono

Albert Hilton: Argentina Football Writer

With the second half of the Argentinian football semester up and running, Albert Hilton brings five Argentine players to watch aged 21 and under to the table that should be on your radar.

Argentinos Juniors: Tobias Palacio (DF)

The classic saying “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” couldn’t be more accurate in the case of 17-year-old Tobias Palacio, who has excelled in his first season of senior football.

Palacio has shown he has the key attributes that will help him mould into the ideal modern centre-back in years to come.

With pace, composure and the ability to distribute with his feet, Palacio perfects the ugly side of the game with his well-timed tackles and confidence to be strong in aerial duels.

Pablo Guede was bold enough to hand Palacio his full senior debut away to River Plate in front of 80,000 fans at El Monumental - raising plenty of eyebrows. 

Yet the youngster showed why his manager knew he was ready, delivering a performance which certainly caught the eye, not looking out of place in one of the most intimidating venues on the planet.

Diving deeper into Palacio’s numbers, Argentinos Jrs’ young centre-back managed to win more tackles per 90 minutes in the Copa de la Liga this year than River Plate’s experienced defender Paulo Diaz (29), with 1.5 tackles completed compared to the Chileans 1.1.

He also beat Diaz in the amount of clearances made per 90 minutes in the Copa de la Liga this year, with 4.4 clearances compared to the River Plate defenders 3.9,  proving why many eyes are now watching Palacio week in, week out.

The Argentine is in the perfect environment with Argentinos Jrs to blossom, a club known for developing young talents, and it won’t be long before there’s European interest.

San Lorenzo: Agustín Giay (RWB)

To be seen as a senior player at just 20-years-old is quite an achievement, and with more than 80 first team appearances to his name, Agustín Giay has experience on his side.

One of the reasons that Giay has been able to play so much first team football since his debut in 2022 is his adaptability, as he can play in any position down the right side of the pitch. From right-back to right-wing, he’s got you covered.

And although many young wing backs have gaping holes in their game, whether it be going forward or defensively - Giay doesn’t have many flaws.

His ability to carry the ball towards the opposition is just as impressive as his hunger to win the ball from them.

His magnificent all round play seems to have sparked the interest of Brazilian giants Palmeiras, who have put in a formal bid for Giay, and when looking at the numbers it becomes even clearer as to why. 

Compared to Palmeiras right back, Marcos Rocha (35), the much younger defender registered a better dribbling rate in his 13 Copa de la Liga games this year with 1.4 dribbles completed per 90 minutes, this is a complete contrast Rocha’s 0.5 per 90 minutes completed in his 14 Paulista games this year. 

Giay also won more ground duels compared to Rocha, registering 3.7 per 90 minutes, whereas the Brazilian won 2.7 in the same competitions previously mentioned.

Although Giay has attracted interest from Europe with the likes of Atlético Madrid and Benfica rumoured to be interested, it seems that Brazil will be his next destination.

Time will tell if this turns out to be the right decision, or whether he should have taken the leap across to Europe.


Lanús: Julio Soler (LB)

Although he may be one of the least experienced players on this list, Julio Soler is someone that should be watched very closely.

The Paraguayan born left-back broke into the Lanús side last year, picking up minutes without starting consistently. However, in 2024 he’s made the left back position his own, starting 11 out of the 14 Copa de la Liga games, as well as impressing in the Copa Sudamericana.

Much like former Boca Juniors prodigy, Valentín Barco, Soler is an attacking minded full back who loves to take on his opponent and create chances for his teammates, his smaller stature allows him to use his low centre of gravity to glide past the opposition with ease.

With all the eye-catching performances he’s putting in, it won’t be long before Argentina’s biggest clubs come calling for Soler; and his numbers speak for themselves.

He beats Boca Juniors’ Lautaro Blanco (25) in successful long balls, completing 12 to Blanco’s 10 in the Liga Profesional so far this year- to add to this, Soler has played 180 minutes compared to Blanco’s 360.  

Also comparing the two games played by Soler and River’s Enzo Diaz (28) in the Liga Profesional this year, it's the Lanús left back that prevails in fouls won, winning five compared to Diaz’s two.  

Even though Soler excels going forward, his defensive work shouldn’t go unnoticed either. His constant darting runs to intercept the ball and persistent biting at wingers heals makes him a nightmare for the opposition to beat.

Vélez Sarsfield: Christian Ordóñez (MD)

El Fortín have a rich history of producing excellent footballers, from Diego Simeone and Nicolás Otamendi to more recently, Thiago Almada and Gianluca Prestianni. The academy is never short of a top talent or two.

The next in the long list of stars from Liniers could be 19-year-old Christian Ordóñez.

The defensive minded midfielder may appear to go under the radar if you’re watching a Vélez game, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of his role in the team. He’s very much the wall that protects the Fort.

Ordóñez’s passing range is excellent, possesses great footwork, has a relaxed presence on the ball and a tangible urgency to win it back, making him a rather  complete player at such a young age.

It looks more and more likely that Boca’s Ezequiel Fernández (21) will make his way over to Europe this summer, Ordóñez could be a great replacement for him, as he holds very similar statistics in his defensive and dribbling work. 

Surprisingly, Ordóñez has won 26 defensive duels compared to Fernández’s 22 in the Liga Profesional this year - with both players playing four games a piece at the time of writing.

As well as that, the Vélez star also has also completed one more successful dribble than Fernández in the previously mentioned competition, beating him four to three. 

An unsung hero for Vélez this year, but as the months roll on it’s only a matter of time before people start to notice him.

River Plate: Franco Mastantuono (RW)

Out of all the young talent coming through in Argentina, Franco Mastantuono might just be the crown jewel. 

At only 16 years of age, he’s already managed to score and provide an assist in the Copa Libertadores, becoming the youngest player in history to do so. On top of that, he’s also River Plate’s youngest ever goal scorer, breaking a 25-year-old record in the process.  

River Plate manager, Martín Demichelis, has come under scrutiny for not giving academy products the deserved first team minutes, but with Mastantuono racking up more and more minutes on the pitch, it's a testament to how much talent the wonderful winger has.

He is a throwback in many ways as his statistics don’t mirror the quality he has- you have to watch him to appreciate him. 

As well as his obvious footballing gift, Mastantuono plays with such confidence you’d think he was playing in the street with his friends, not in front of full stadiums. 

His technical ability is a pure footballing joy, able to ghost past opposition defenders, he can often take two or three out of the game at once, and then pinpoint a perfect pass to top it off.

Although he’s made less than 20 senior appearances, he’s already attracted serious attention from some of the world’s biggest clubs, with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Barcelona all rumoured to be fighting for his signature. 


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