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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 11:31 GMT
Tim Vickery column
Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Ever Banega
Banega has an eye for a pass and is technically gifted

South American clubs should think in terms of keeping their top young players for three years - one to adapt to senior football, and the other two to show their stuff and help win some trophies before the inevitable move to Europe.

This was the thinking of Mauricio Macri, who recently came to the end of a highly successful spell as president of Argentine giants Boca Juniors.

But Macri's formula has not been applied to the career of Ever Banega, the teenage midfielder Boca have just sold to Valencia in Spain.

Banega is crossing the Atlantic just 11 months after making his first-team debut. In his case, though, that first year of adaptation hardly seemed necessary.

He came to prominence in January during the South American Under-20 Championships.

Within the first two minutes of Argentina's opening game I had already made an annotation in my notebook - "passing of Banega". He organised the play with remarkable maturity and outstanding technical ability.

Miguel Angel Russo, then in charge of Boca, was watching closely. And when the Argentine championship kicked off in February Banega was straight into the first team, and looked instantly at home.

So accomplished was he that he could even shine out of position. Juan Roman Riquelme came back on loan to take over playmaking duties, and Banega found himself in the holding role.

Ever Banega
Valenica fans have given Banega a warm far

It is not his natural function, but he did it so well that he was keeping Boca legend Sebastian Battaglia on the bench, and if the defensive side of his game was not perfect, at least he was ensuring that the ball was played forward with quality.

Boca won the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League equivalent. Argentina won the World Youth Cup. Banega could be forgiven for thinking that this game of football was very easy.

Now it becomes much more difficult. Boca have a new president, Pedro Pompilio, who is keen to step out of Macri's shadow. He arranges to bring back Riquelme on a permanent basis.

It leaves the club financially stretched, so when Valencia bid a reported 13m for Banega, Boca were anxious to accept.

The player had seemed willing to stay a while longer, and described his last day at Boca as the saddest of his life. But the economic pressures had proved impossible to resist.

So Boca are happy. But from Banega's point of view, the problem with accepting the first big-money bid is that it might not be the right time, or the right club.

It is not always easy for South American midfielders to adapt to the European game. The football is more frenetic, faster in the zone of transition, and hitting cross field passes to change the angle of attack can be a risky business.

The best we can hope for is that Banega's talent wins through

Tim Vickery

Even Javier Mascherano, a player with sound distribution and the experience of a World Cup behind him, suffered some early mishaps in this area in English football.

The move to Europe would present new problems and challenges whichever club Banega joined. And Valencia are in the middle of a troubled campaign.

This is clearly not some smooth running machine which the youngster will be able to slot seamlessly into.

Even so, press and public will put him under pressure to justify the transfer fee - a heavy burden for a 19-year-old with a year's senior experience to carry.

A year ago, when I picked him out in World Soccer magazine as one of the stars of the Under-20 Championships, I wrote that Banega was "just the type of player who should be allowed to develop in South American football".

Against the forces of the global economy it was clearly a vain hope.

Now the best we can expect is that talent wins through, and that Banega has no reason to regret skipping that extra year in South America that could have left him better equipped to deal with his European adventure.

You can put your questions to Tim Vickery every week on the World Football Phone-in on Radio 5 Live's Up All Night programme from 0230 to 0400 GMT every Saturday. You can also download last week's World Football Phone-in Podcast.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

What type of player is Derby County's new signing, Emanuel Villa
Kev Fisher

I have to confess that I haven't seen him since he went to Mexico some two-and-a-half years ago, but I did see a fair bit of him while he was at Rosario Central. He gives you versatility as a striker, can play right up front or down the right channel - I'd imagine that in English football he's more likely to do the latter - a bit of pace, some strength on the ball, reminds me a bit of another Argentine, Lisandro Lopez, who is having such a good season with Porto. I don't think Villa is quite in the same class, though, and very often Argentine strikers find European football a huge step up. So even though he's nicknamed 'Tito,' I don't think he's going to able to marshal Derby out of the relegation zone.

Has Fabio Simplicio of Palermo in Italy ever played for the Brazil national team? If not, how is he rated in Brazil and any chance of getting a call up?
Chiku Mtegha, Bath

No he hasn't, which shows the downside of moving to Europe early. He was developing nicely at Sao Paulo, but has been out of sight, out of mind for many of the Brazilian footballing public, so there's no lobby at home pushing for his call-up. If you haven't been called up before you move away, and you're not starring in the Champions League, then it's very difficult to break into the Brazil squad - but not impossible, as Holland-based striker Afonso Alves showed recently.

I am a Chelsea fan born and bred, there has been a lot of talk about us signing a playmaker to add a bit of extra creativity. Having watched a lot of European football with Chelsea over the last few years, I have been especially impressed with Argentina's Lucho Gonzalez. He appeared to me to be an industrious midfielder with a good engine, an eye for a pass and strong on the ball. This season he has the captain's armband at Porto and although they are a large club and in European competition, I wondered how long it would be before he was off to one of the "Super clubs" in European football?
Alex Cork

An excellent and very versatile player - I've even seen him fill the holding role, he can play either side of the midfield diamond or as playmaker. Flush with money from the sale of Anderson to Manchester United, there's little imperative for Porto to sell. I also wonder about him in the Premier League - he might find it all too frenetic. And at the very highest level I think he's better in the supporting cast than as playmaker - for a while with Argentina he was a splendid lieutenant to Riquelme's captain.

Brazil victorious in Copa America
16 Jul 07 |  Football


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