There’s not many Argentines who opt to play for another country. Step forward Mateo Retegui who became part of the minority with his decision to represent Italy.
Having represented Argentina at under 19 and 20 level, Retegui had never represented the senior side and chose to switch his allegiances to Italy, legible to represent the European champions through his grandmother.
And so far so good for the young prospect, who scored on his international debut against England in the Euro Qualifiers, before adding his second in as many games against Malta three days later.
The 23-year-old has scored eight goals in eleven Argentina Primera matches to date for Tigre this season, catching plenty of attention from European clubs. Tigre do have the option to make his move 100% permanent, although that appears unlikely to happen with the attention Retegui’s accumulating.
Loan spells and co-ownership complicates matters
Despite remaining on Boca’s books, the forward has only made a single appearance for the club, spending the last four years on loan.
Spells with Estudiantes and Talleres Cordoba caught the eye before Tigre took him on loan for themselves in 2022, where he scored 19 goals in 27 league appearances. There’s no surprise as to why Italy soon came knocking when they found out he was interested.
A successful start to the 2023 campaign for Tigre has naturally caught the attention of Premier League clubs, with Brighton and Crystal Palace rumoured to be monitoring the situation.
However, Retegui has made it clear he prefers a move to Serie A with both AC and Inter Milan showing significant interest.
In a recent interview, he announced he had been learning both Italian and English, but a move to Italy to play in the top-flight was his main objective.
It has been widely reported AC Milan have been scouting him for 18 months. However, a stumbling block for both Milan teams is the fact Tigre have this option in place to make Retegui’s move permanent, while Boca know they will receive a sizeable transfer free if sold to a top European club.
Dealing with one club in a transfer can be difficult enough, let alone two. This one may prove to be a tricky puzzle to solve.
Verona had tabled an offer around €10m before the start of the season, but with his rise in the Azzurri colours, that figure looks to have at least doubled.
Romelu Lukaku’s future may determine whether Inter can make a move, while AC have made it clear they don’t want to be caught in a bidding war – but this is something almost unavoidable with a promising young international in 2023.
Lazio and Juventus have also expressed interest, as have Frankfurt in the Bundesliga, but it all remains up in the air at present.
Retegui’s raw ability has caught the eye
So, why is the new kid on the block held in such high regard?
The Argentine is strong in possession. He thrives of taking the ball in his stride in wide positions, before putting difficult balls to defend across the box or instead wiggles his way into dangerous areas looking to wrong side opponents.
His nimble footwork in tight areas helps him to naturally create goalscoring opportunities or space for his teammates. Whether he’s cutting inside on his left foot, or opening his body to curl on home with his right, it’s clear to see why he’s in such high demand. He’s brave in the air, too, making him the complete package.
Possessing pace, power and intelligence, Retegui has the right qualities to be successful outside of South America.
With the desire he’s shown to be open and honest about his next step, the natural finisher is already preparing for life after Argentina and his summer transfer move, wherever that may be.
Either way, the Italian national side will be keen for the 23-year-old to be permanently based on their shores, to help the Azzurri qualify for the Euro 2024 having missed out on the Qatar World Cup.