Is Lautaro Martinez Argentina's next up-and-coming superstar?
Everybody has been talking about Lautaro Martinez lately. The 20-year-old Racing striker has been the subject of several transfer rumours, as well as speculation whether he is good enough to play for the Argentina National Team in the upcoming 2018 World Cup. He has stoked the flames with his recent play.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli listened to the fans. He summoned the talented striker for the upcoming friendlies against Italy and Spain. The numbers back him up. Martinez has 10 goals and three assists in 14 appearances in the Argentinian Super Liga. He also netted a hat-trick in the team's 2018 Copa Libertadores debut against Cruzeiro, contributing heavily to a 4-2 victory over the Brazilian powerhouse. His recent performances reveal why several big clubs have already inquired after his availability.
The rumour mill has churned out Inter, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, and FC Barcelona as interested parties. The Avellaneda side either isn't ready to part ways with their 20-year-old talisman or simply haven't been offered their price. Inevitably he will move on. Lautaro is far too good to remain in Argentina.
In his current form there doesn't seem to be anything he can't do. The Bahia Blanca native scores with the best of them, carries the team offensively when needed, and has also emerged as a team leader for Racing, which is a large club in Argentina. He is displaying a maturity usually found in much older players.
If that isn't impressive he also has a bag of tricks that include moves like this:
If that is not world-class skill someone needs to come up with a new definition. If he is pulling stunts like that in meaningful matches now, how good will he be in his peak years?
One move does not define Lautaro however. If we're going to pigeon-hole him, he plays like a stronger Sergio Aguero, albeit lacking the pace. It's as though Jorge Sampaoli mail-ordered a hybrid blend of Kun and Gonzalo Higuain. Who knows? Sports medicine can do amazing things these days.
Time will reveal when Martinez is ready to move to Europe and which league and club he chooses. His Argentina call-up is a step in the right direction. The upcoming friendlies against the Azzurri and La Roja will give everyone a sense of what he can do, whether he is ultimately deserving of a place in the 2018 World Cup squad.
It will be tough. La Albiceleste's cup overflows with talent up front. Even if Lionel Messi is out on the wing or playing as an attacking mid, Aguero and Higuain must be considered. When the stakes matter, Sampaoli will be less likely to leave Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala off his squad.
Even if he does not make the final squad, Martinez will have had a taste, trained alongside Lionel Messi, and seen what will be expected from him in the future.
Fans across the globe should keep an eye on the youngster. He will be playing on a bigger stage sooner than later. Don't blink. Lautaro Martinez is blossoming into a world-class player right before your eyes.