Argentina have waited decades for Valentín Barco
Why Brighton and Manchester City are obsessed with the full-back from Buenos Aires.
Clubs across Europe have fallen head over heels for Boca Juniors’ mercurial full-back, Valentín Barco.
It’s not hard to see why, writes Ronan Manning: he’s a modern star in the making and the player Argentina have spent decades waiting for.
Argentina are one of world football’s historical powerhouses. They have a long list of elite talent in every position, save one: full-back. That a country home to some of the greatest attackers of all time only has one name - Javier Zanetti - on the list of popularly considered ‘world-class’ full-backs is a blotch on an otherwise extraordinary history.
The list of Argentina’s recent World Cup starters at full-back is dominated by players that were shunted out of position: Jonas Gutierrez, Nicolas Burdisso, Marcos Rojo, Jose Maria Basanta, Eduardo Salvio, Gabriel Mercado, and Nicolas Otamendi all started matches at full-back in the 2010, 2014, and 2018 editions. While the 2022 campaign saw natural full-back Nahuel Molina start on the right and one of Marcos Acuña (another former winger) or Nico Tagliafico take the left, the fact that the World Champions claimed the greatest honour in the sport without a household name in the position was striking.
It’s even more surprising considering how the nation incubates its own talent. Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernández, Julián Álvarez - all key contributors to the 2022 World Cup win - are just a few of the Argentine Primera División’s recent exports. Perhaps it’s just bad luck, or perhaps it speaks to the nation’s preference for attacking verve leaking into its strategy for youth development.
Whatever the reason, for a decade or more there has been little expectation that an exceptional full-back would develop beneath the Andes. Until now.
Among the sprawling concrete of Buenos Aires, Boca Juniors have quietly raised a teenage super-talent. He’s already earned over 1,000 league minutes for their first team and this summer appeared at the Under-20 World Cup. His performances there caused Juventus and Manchester City to register their interest in triggering his reported €8 million release clause. Now it’s Brighton, everyone’s favourite destination for South American stars, who look most likely to import him to Europe.
Into the void of world-class Argentinian full-backs steps 19-year-old Valentín Barco.
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