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Messi’s father wanted City’s new pearl, Julián Álvarez, to play for Barça

BarcelonaGustavo Álvarez’s mobile phone rings and Jorge Messi speaks on the other side of the line. Leo’s father asks this worker at a wheat company in Calchín, Argentina, for his son Julián. It’s not the first time. Some time ago he had commented on the possibility of going to play with the Leo Foundation and now it was Barça who were interested in him. Too late: Gustavo has already committed to Real Madrid. A few days later, Julián, who was only eleven years old, would cross the Atlantic to Peralada to play a friendly tournament with the whites. A decade later, Julián Álvarez has exploded with River Plate to the point that Pep Guardiola, despite taking on Erling Haaland, has opted for one of the most prominent strikers in South American football.

“Welcome to Calchín, the land of Julián Álvarez,” read a sign at the entrance to the municipality of Córdoba. From an early age, he was nicknamed the Spider, because he ran so fast that he looked like he had more than two legs and because of his fanaticism for Spiderman. Fast and top-notch, he was just a sample of what he would become: a striker who moves like a modern striker and thrashes like a us of area. And a small sample was what it took for a scout from Madrid who had been invited to the country to take him to Spain. The spider traveled to Peralada to play in a friendly tournament which ended up raising the cup, with two goals scored on his account. The whites kept Julian on the radar because then, for bureaucratic reasons, they could not incorporate him until later.

Madrid was not the only team to be interested in the striker. Although Julián has been a fan of River since he was a child, he got to try Boca Juniors, the eternal rival of the millionaires. Interestingly, his debut in the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent in the Champions League, would make him against the xeneizes in one of the most memorable finals of the competition. Calchín jumped at the Santiago Bernabéu to play a few minutes of extra time in the return match of the injured final. December 9, 2018: a date engraved in the memory of Julian and on the skin of many millionaires. If he did not sign for the River before it was because the family did not see clearly that he was going to live alone in Buenos Aires, more than 600 kilometers from Calchín.

The paradigm of the modern ‘new’

“He was born as a striker who could move all over the attacking front. It was not very clear what his ideal position was,” recalls Vicente Muglia, a journalist from Ole Newspaper. He started playing from the far right, while the central area was occupied by Santos Borré, which culminated in the elimination of Barça in the Europa League. Marcelo Gallardo’s River is a team that likes to take the initiative: it plays at a high pace and is able to dress its football in different schemes. Julián has always played surrounded by talented footballers who have been able to connect with him: both from the band – Jorge Carrascal, Esequiel Barco and Juanfer Quintero – and from the central area – Enzo Fernández, Nico de la Cruz.

When Borré made the leap to Europe, Julian exploded. “It caused confusion, because it began to be defined as us classic. And he had figures to label him as such, but he doesn’t have a football limited only to ending his team’s attacks, “said Muglia.

Complementary to Haaland

“He is a constant search engine for spaces and very intelligent when it comes to detecting danger,” continues the journalist. The jump to Manchester is dizzying, but Pep Guardiola and Gallardo speak the same language. In fact, Santpedor has praised the Argentine coach’s football proposal more than once. While there are nuances that differentiate them, they are proactive and never speculate. Language will not be a problem.

From the sporting city of Manchester City describe Julian as a striker similar to Gabriel Jesus, who has just been transferred to Arsenal. “The most important thing is that he can play in different positions, not just top-notch. And most importantly: he has a goal. And that’s very hard to find,” they emphasize. In the last league it contributed with 25 goals in 21 parties.

“When one is good, in a context like City’s it is even better. Julian will not stop growing,” said Lionel Scaloni, Argentine coach. Making the leap to Europe a few months before the World Cup is a risky move, but “it does not pose a threat to his presence at the World Cup,” Muglia explains. Julian has established himself as a replacement for Lautaro Martinez, the tip of an Argentina that arrives in Qatar better than ever.

At the age of 22, Julián has won the Argentine League, the Libertadores and the Copa America. He now arrives in Manchester mirroring himself in the figure of Kun Agüero and in a context that will allow him to continue to cultivate himself little by little. In his short career, it has been in football what Bizarrap is in music: the meteoric rise of a talent with a roof yet to be discovered. He faces all the challenges he can imagine.

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