The Albiceleste have qualified for the world cup by the skin of their teeth fueled by the heroics of Lionel Messi. The Argentina domestic league is still churning out decent players but it seems that world class midfielders and defenders have dried up coming out from the country which gave us the likes of Passarella, Batista, Redondo, Ayala, Sorin, Cambiasso etc. In fact, after the retirement of Ayala and Walter Samuel, Argentina has not produced another world class defender. Good players like Otamendi, Musacchio, Rojo etc are playing in top teams in top leagues, but they are not in the same class of players like Passarella and Ayala. So today we are going to take a look at a bright young player who can very well be a star in the centre of defense, both in the famous blue white jersey and for a top European heavyweight. Emanuel Mammana is the name.
This six feet 21 year old ball playing CB started his career in River Plate before moving to Lyon and then to St. Zenit Saint Petersburg. He was a star in the U-17 WC at UAE in 2013, where he showed skills and temperament beyond his age . He was called up by Alejandro Sabella in the sparring squad with first team before 2014 WC and debuted in a friendly against Slovenia. He again featured in U-20 WC in 2015 where Argentina crashed out in group stages but Mammana was the stand out performer again, the lone man holding the sorry Albiceleste defense. Next year he moved to Lyon and in 2017 he moved to Zenit despite interests from Liverpool, Everton ,Chelsea and Spurs.
Mammana is an elegant ball playing CB adept at reading the game and closing out dangers. He is decent aerially and is a very good dribbler who is never afraid to bring out the ball. He has decent pace too which have seen him being deployed occasionally as right back for River Plate. Stylistically he is similar to John Stones from England. Just like Stones is honing his skills under Pep Guardiola and have embarked upon the path to become an elite CB, similarly Mammana needs the impetus and nurturing to take the next leap. He is less error prone than Stones was at this age, though it can be argued that Stones was playing for Everton in the heat of Premier League, but still Mammana almost never loses his concentration and rarely perform mistimed tackles and interceptions. Sky is the limit for him and if he continues his trajectory, remains injury free and keeps on improving, soon he will be playing for one of the European heavyweights and who knows, after Ayala, Argentina will find another world class centre back marshalling their defense.
By Arindam Chakraborty