After playing a U20 World Cup, clubs will always take notice if you impress. For the following list of players, clubs still haven’t shown definitive interest and therefore the players in question are still in Uruguay.
José Luis Rodríguez (20 – Danubio)
Undoubtedly one of Uruguay’s best player at the U20 World Cup back in May, it’s been a bit of a surprise that still no club has picked up the talented right full back that is José Luis Rodríguez. The Danubio defender played in South Korea as an experienced player, who was extremely comfortable with the ball on his feet but also very disciplined in defence.
Standing 6ft tall and possessing plenty of pace, the 20-year-old ticks many boxes of managers in search for an ideal fullback. And above that, Rodríguez is available for a bargain fee of between €500k and €1M. Before the transfer window closes, you should expect a European club signing up Rodríguez, otherwise, it would be a missed opportunity for sure.
Carlos Benavídez (19 – Defensor Sporting)
Unlike Rodríguez, Defensor Sporting youth graduate Carlos Benavídez has been attracting interest from European clubs. Benavídez – who did not feature regularly in the U20 World Cup, but was one of Uruguay’s unsung heroes in the qualification process – is an athletic player with incredible stamina. It allows him to recover lost balls and also to be decisive in the setting up of attacks.
One of the European clubs reportedly interested in Benavídez are 2010 European champions Inter Milan. Inter intend to loan out the Uruguayan first to a lower ranked Italian side to assess his capabilities as a Serie A player. It would be a construction where Benavídez could really benefit from as warming the bench at such a young age has often proven to be a progress killer.
Santiago Mele (19 – Fénix)
In a nation of 3.5 million people finding good goalkeepers shouldn’t be easy, yet Uruguay seem to have produced another qualified goalie to replace Fernando Muslera when he hangs up his gloves. The man in question is Santiago Mele, who impressed everyone at the U20 World Cup by pulling of match-winning saves and especially by saving three consecutive penalties against Portugal to send Uruguay into the semi-finals.
Mele isn’t a tall goalkeeper but more than makes up for it with his extraordinary shot stopping qualities. It has put a respected club like Fenerbahçe on notice for the Fénix No1. It indicates that a transfer to the old continent is close for Mele and now it’s up to the youngster to make the sensible decision and choose which club would suit him best at this time of his career.
Nicolás De La Cruz (20 – Liverpool Montevideo)
While Nicolás De La Cruz was the best player when Uruguay qualified for the U20 World Cup, the attacking midfielder disappointed a bit in the World Cup itself. Despite all of that, De La Cruz still hasn’t been written off many club’s wish lists. Valencia, AC Milan, Inter Milan and River Plate to name a few have already shown interest in the 20-year-old.
De La Cruz – a quick dribbler, capable to orchestrate the play in wonderful fashion – has spoken out his desire to stay in South America for the next 12 months as he is expecting his first child. It has put Argentinian club River Plate in pole position to sign the Liverpool playmaker. If De La Cruz moves to River, the expectation is that he won’t stay in Argentina for long as his dream is to succeed in Europe.
Joaquín Ardaiz (18 – El Tanque Sisley)
You will rarely see a more powerful 18-year-old than Uruguayan forward Joaquín Ardaiz. Granted, the target man needs to develop as a player but all the physical attributes plus an eye for the goal are there. English sports management TMG Football quickly acknowledged Ardaíz’ potential and signed him up in early 2017.
Since then, Ardaíz has been linked to several well renowned European clubs. My advice to Ardaíz is to ignore offers from the so-called big clubs and find a team that is competitive but offers chances to youth. Sampdoria comes to mind and with fellow Uruguayan Lucas Torreira as a teammate, it would be the perfect first step in Europe for Ardaíz.
Written by David Kraakman