As the heir apparent to Luis Suarez and a peer of Paul Pogba, the world was at the feet of Nicolás López. But a European dream became a nightmare
For most South American players, a move to Europe is the ultimate dream, but when it doesn’t work out an unfortunate player can find himself in a maze of loan moves. That’s exactly what happened to Nicolás López, who now plays in Brazil’s second division after being regarded one of world football’s hottest prospects just several years ago.
At the time, the talented Uruguayan had led his country to the final at the U20 World Cup of 2013 and was awarded the Silver Ball for being the tournament’s second best player, second only to Paul Pogba. But from that point, the career paths of the French midfielder and López went in completely different directions.
While the powerful Pogba transformed himself into a key player for Juventus, López slowly became an outcast in Italian football. AS Roma – who bought the elegant striker from Nacional in January 2012 – soon deemed him not good enough and sold him to Udinese.
In his first season for the north-east club, López played on a regular basis but failed to make a big enough impact and was subsequently loaned out to Hellas Verona the following year.
At Hellas, a very similar scenario unfolded. El Diente (The Tooth) – the nickname López owes to his somewhat dislocated gnashers – found himself at a dead end in Italy. It was a chapter of his career that started promisingly but ended in obscurity. The forward then left for another loan move to play for Granada and appeared in a total of ten games in five months for the Spanish outfit before finally returning home, to his beloved Nacional.
Exactly four years after leaving Uruguay for Europe to follow in the footsteps of illustrious compatriots like Diego Forlan, López was back at square one. His confidence was low, having flopped everywhere he went. What then followed was a bit of a resurrection. In his familiar surroundings, the forward got back to his best and made defenders panic again.
It led to Brazilian giants Internacional purchasing López last summer. Another blow was soon to tarnish López’ already troubled career, however, as his new club were to experience their first-ever relegation from Brazil’s first division. Talks of a return to Nacional soon followed, but Inter opted against it and now see López as a key player in their fight for promotion.
Although his current situation is in glaring contrast to that of four years ago, the 23-year-old No9 still has his best years in front of him. His quality has never been disputed, but a lack of confidence and continuity has hurt the Uruguayan in the past. At Inter – one of Brazil’s biggest clubs – he has been given a vote of confidence by the board so all the ingredients are there for López to revive his career.
If López can get it right and show the world what a cracking player he can be, a very successful career will lie ahead. Even a first senior Uruguay call-up could be among the opportunities if he can tap into his undisputed talent.
Written by David Kraakman