Manuel Veth –
The Futbolgrad Network has taken a look at five players, who could have a major impact in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Gabriel Jesus, Mariano Díaz, Jesús Corona, Wendell, and Giovani Lo Celso are five players to watch in the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
The round of 32 of the Europa League, and the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League will kick off next week. As always, the Futbolgrad Network will keep a close eye on all the games that involve teams from the post-Soviet Space and the Balkans.
Sadly, it has been a disappointing group stage for teams from the post-Soviet space in the UEFA Champions League. While FC Rostov managed to finish third in their group, and therefore continue the European season in the Europa League, CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Kyiv were eliminated in the group stage.
Five players to look out for in the round of 16 in the Champions League
This does not mean, however, that the Champions League won’t be interesting for Futbolgrad Network readers. Keen readers of FutebolCidade will, for example, note that there is plenty of South American talent in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League. After bringing you a list of young talent from the Balkans and the post-Soviet space that you should keep an eye on in the round of 16 in the Champions League, we now bring you the top five of South American talent.
Five players to look out for in the Champions League to follow are as briefed below:
Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City, winger, 21
Gabriel Jesus is, perhaps, the most anticipated talent from Brazil to have arrived in Europe since Neymar made the move from Santos to Barcelona in 2013. Manchester City had already signed Gabriel Jesus in the summer of 2016, but parked the Brazilian winger at his hometown club, São Paulo based Palmeiras.
Gabriel Jesus was the key player in Palmeiras’ successful title challenge in the Série A. In 22 Série A games, Gabriel Jesus scored 13 goals and gave four assists. Furthermore, those who regularly listen to the World Football Index – South American Football Show, will have noted that Gabriel Jesus was far and away the standout player of the 2016 Série A season.
He then completed his transfer to Manchester City on January 1, 2017, and has been an absolute revelation in England, scoring three goals in three English Premier League games, which makes him one of five players to look out for in the round of 16 in the Champions League.
Mariano Díaz Mejía, Real Madrid, striker, 23
The talented Dominican national team player, Mariano Díaz Mejía, was heavily linked with a move to Eintracht Frankfurt during the winter transfer window. Mariano felt that he had to leave Real Madrid in order to gain more playing time. Although gifted, with almost limitless talent, the young striker has struggled to get past the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Karim Benzema.
Mariano, therefore, felt that he had to leave the club. But, in the end, head coach Zinedine Zidane convinced the forward to stay at Real and wait for his chance. There are good reasons for Real wanting to hang on to the forward. Mariano was deadly when he played this season, scoring four goals in five games in the Copa del Rey. With the games coming thick and fast for Real Madrid in the second half, do not be surprised to see Mariano gain more playing time, and perhaps be the difference maker in the later stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Jesús Corona, Porto, winger, 24
We love Mexican football at the Futbolgrad Network, and it is exciting to see more and more Mexicans come over to Europe to show their special brand of football. Porto forward, Jesús Corona, is certainly one of many Mexicans to look out for in the future. The 24-year-old forward from Porto will be facing Juventus Turin in the round of 16.
A product of Monterrey CF, Jesús Corona first moved to Europe to join Twente Enschede in 2013, and quickly became one of the most promising talents of the Dutch Eredivisie. He then joined Porto in the summer of 2015, and has slowly developed as one of the standout players at a squad that is currently in a bit of a rebuild.
Porto have always been somewhat of a developing club and it would, therefore, not be a surprise if Corona soon moves on to a bigger European league. For this, he will have to shine in the Champions League, and we at the Futbolgrad Network highly anticipate that he will be one of five players to watch out for in round of 16 in the Champions League.
Wendell, Bayer Leverkusen, left-back, 23
Bayer Leverkusen have a strong history when it comes to discovering talented South American players. The likes of Paulo Sérgio, Emerson, Zé Roberto, Jorginho, Renato Augusto, Juan, Lúcio, and Arturo Vidal all made their mark first with Bayer Leverkusen before moving on to greater things with big clubs all over Europe. The 23-year-old Wendell could very well be the next top Brazilian prospect to become a recognizable star after having played for Bayer.
Wendell joined Bayer in the summer of 2014 from Grêmio. Back then, it was anticipated that the slight Brazilian would be a long-term project. But the left-back stepped right up and quickly became an important member of Bayer Leverkusen’s starting eleven. He is now in his third full season at the club, and it sometimes easy to forget that he is still only 23-years old.
His awareness, and tactical abilities make him one of the best left-backs in the league, and there have already been rumours that Bayern München could bring him in at some point. One thing is for certain, a big money move is in the future for the Brazilian left-back, especially if he performs well in the later stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Giovani Lo Celso, Paris Saint-Germain, attacking midfielder, 20
Paris Saint-Germain have been extremely active during the winter transfer window and have brought in the likes of German national team player Julian Draxler from VfL Wolfsburg. Draxler’s transfer has added further star power to a squad that already includes several South American superstars such as Ángel di Maria, Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura, Marquinhos, and Edinson Cavani. With the amount of star power now available to head coach Unai Emery, one could almost forget that PSG also brought in another young talented Argentine attacking midfielder in the form of Giovani Lo Celso this winter.
Lo Celso was already signed from his home club Rosario Central last summer, but was then quickly loaned back in order to give him playing time in the Argentine Primera División. Back at Rosario, Lo Celso played nine games in which he scored one goal. Lo Celso is considered one of the best midfield talents produced in Argentina in recent years.
Combining ball control with an unbelievable ball distribution, with physical elements such as an astonishing work rate, and the ability to win tackles, Lo Celso is the complete package. Perhaps the only downsides to his game are his speed and his tendency to lose his head when things become heated on the field.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.