Welcome to a new edition of Where Are They Now? with a focus on the South American U20 Championship happening right now. We look back 12 years to the champions of South America at youth level, Argentina, and see what happened to their squad in the intervening years…
1. Gustavo Eberto (Goalkeeper, Boca Juniors)
A product of the Boca Juniors youth system, Eberto was Argentina’s number 1 at the tournament as they went on to win. Getting game time however for Boca was much more difficult for the young keeper as he made just two league appearances for the club before leaving in 2006 to join Tallares. He only managed one appearance for the club before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Eberto sadly succumbed to the disease on September 3 2007 just days after his 24th birthday.
2. Gonzalo Rodriguez (Defender, San Lorenzo)
Already beginning to establish himself in the first team at San Lorenzo, Rodriguez impressed at the tournament to the point that he made his full international debut not long after the tournament. He left Argentina at 20 to join Spanish side Villarreal and immediately established himself in the first team. He was a rock at the heart of the Yellow Submarine defence for eight seasons, making over 250 appearances for the club (despite two bad injuries) but left when the club was relegated in 2012 for Italian side Fiorentina. He has been a regular for the club where he still plays. Rodriguez’s international career has never got going however and he has only made 6 appearances with one goal with the last of those games coming in 2008.
3. Marcos Charras (Defender, CSKA Sofia)
Left back Charras’ career had already taken an interesting path as he had opted to join Bulgarian side CSKA Sofia at just 19 years old. He played just once for the U20s and returned to Bulgaria where he played until 2005 when he joined Velez Sarsfield in his home country. He only stayed for six months before being sent to the MLS with FC Dallas. He left Dallas after just one year and it took him another year to find a club before he eventually ended up in Georgia with Dinamo Tbilisi in 2008. He left Georgia in 2010 and has been without a club ever since.
4. Mauricio Romero (Defender, Lanus)
Romero was a regular in defence for Argentina during the tournament and was beginning to play more regularly for his club side Lanus. He played over 100 games for Lanus before moving to Mexican side Morelia in 2007. In Mexico, he was named captain of the club for a short while but eventually slipped down the pecking order and left in 2013 to return to Argentina with Colon. His stay with Colon was short and within a few months he had returned to Mexico with Atlante. He most recently moved to current club Puebla in the summer of 2014.
5. Javier Mascherano (Midfielder, River Plate)
A tenacious defensive midfielder, Mascherano’s performances at the tournament alerted Argentina to the fact that they had a world-class talent on their hands. The Argentines were so enamored with Mascherano’s displays that they handed him his senior international debut in the summer of 2003 before he had even played a first team game for club side River Plate. He was quickly brought into the River side and impressed as the won the Clausura title in his first season and reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores twice. Mascherano left River not long after the Confederations Cup in 2005 to join Brazilian side Corinthians. His spell at Corinthians was disrupted by injury but he did manage to claim a league title with the club before leaving in the summer of 2006 to join English side West Ham. His time at West Ham was short, unsuccessful and cost the Hammers millions of pounds in fines before he was allowed to join Liverpool on loan in January 2007. His career was reignited under the tutelage of Rafael Benitez as the Reds went close to the title with Mascherano a key part of that push. The club quickly dropped off though and amid ownership uncertainty, Mascherano left to join Barcelona in the summer of 2010. He has spent much of his time playing in defence for Barcelona but has become a key man for the Catalan side, picking up an impressive trophy haul in the process – 2 league titles, Copa del Rey, Champions League, European Super Cup, Club World Cup and two Spanish Super Cups. Mascherano has also been a stalwart for Argentina, going to three World Cups, being one of the stars in their recent run to the World Cup final as well as amassing over 100 caps for his country.
6. Javier Pinola (Defender, Atletico Madrid)
Pinola’s talents had been spotted by Atletico Madrid the year before the tournament but the full back had spent his entire time in the reserves. He was a regular as Argentina won the tournament and he returned to Atletico looking to break into the team. He only managed two league appearances for Atleti before being loaned out to Racing Club of Argentina then current side FC Nurnberg of Germany. His impressive displays for Nurnberg saw his move made permanent and he helped the club to the German Cup in 2007. Pinola is still a regular for the club and has made over 250 appearances for the club to date. Pinola also has one solitary international cap for Argentina with that being earned in a 2007 friendly against Algeria.
7. Maxi Lopez (Striker, River Plate)
A peripheral first team player at River Plate, Lopez was a promising striker with a poor goal return. He returned to being a figure of fun at River until January 2005 when he joined Spanish giants Barcelona. This caused much internet fun in Argentina with many mockingly worshiping Lopez as some kind of God-like figure. His time at Barcelona wielded just two goals and he was sent on loan to Mallorca in 2006. His loan was unsuccessful and he was sold to Russian side FC Moscow in 2007. His spell in Russia was promising but fizzled out and he was sent on loan in 2009 to Brazilian side Gremio where he managed to find some regular goalscoring form. He left FC Moscow permanently in January 2010 to sign for Italian side Catania and started scoring in Serie A on a reasonably regular basis. His form soon dropped off and he was loaned out AC Milan in 2012 before 18 months with Sampdoria. He left Catania permanently in 2014 for Chievo before recently joining Torino.
8. Pablo Zabaleta (Midfielder, San Lorenzo)
One of the youngest members of the squad, Zabaleta was initially a defensive midfielder before being moved to the right at San Lorenzo. His impressive performances for San Lorenzo as well as captaining Argentina to the World Youth Championship earned him a move to Spanish side Espanyol in 2005. He helped the club to the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup final before leaving in 2008 to join English side Manchester City. Zabaleta actually signed the day before the Abu Dhabi takeover and is one of the last players at the club to have been there before the takeover. Zabaleta has developed into the club’s first choice right back and fan favourite with his consistency and energy and has helped the club to two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and League Cup. He made his full international debut in 2005 and is now Argentina’s number one right back. Zabaleta has won 46 caps for Argentina and, despite missing the 2010 World Cup, was a regular as Argentina got to the World Cup final.
9. Fernando Cavenaghi (Striker, River Plate)
The top scorer at the tournament with 8 goals, Cavenaghi was a regular goal scorer for River Plate and would have another 20 goal season following the tournament. His goals earned him a move to Russian side Spartak Moscow in 2004 but he struggled to settle in Russia and didn’t score as regularly as he had at River. He was sold in January 2007 to French side Bordeaux and soon established himself as a regular scorer for the club and helped them to the Ligue 1 title in 2009. His form dropped off quickly though and he was loaned out to Mallorca in Spain and Internacional in Brazil before returning to River Plate in 2011 following their relegation. His 19 goals helped River to the Primera B title and earned Cavenaghi a return to Spain with relegated Villarreal. His spell was short and he joined Mexican side Pachuca in 2013 before returning to River in 2014 where he still plays. Cavenaghi made his international debut in 2008 and has won 4 caps for Argentina.
10. Carlos Tevez (Striker, Boca Juniors)
A highly thought of player in Argentina, Tevez was Boca’s next big idol – the man who came from nothing to lead Boca to glory. Of course, Tevez helped the club win the Libertadores in 2003 as well as the World Club Cup the same year. His performances drew the attention of many a club around the world but he chose to join Brazilians Corinthians in 2005 alongside Mascherano. He was given the captaincy of Corinthians and his goals led them to the Serie A title and won Tevez the player of the year award (becoming the first foreigner since 1976 to win it). He stayed with the club until the summer of 2006 where, again with Mascherano, he joined West Ham. His stay at West Ham was more successful than Mascherano’s as Tevez helped keep the club in the Premier League with the only goal in a last day 1-0 win at Old Trafford. He would then join Manchester United that summer, helping the club win two Premier League titles and the Champions League before he joined city rivals Manchester City in 2009. His time at City was eventful as his goals helped them to the Premier League and FA Cup despite Tevez being placed on gardening leave for allegedly refusing to come on as a substitute in a Champions League game at Bayern Munich. He left City for current club Juventus in 2013 and has become a hero in Turin with his goals helping the club to the Serie A title last season. Tevez has 66 caps for Argentina, scoring 13 times but would have had more had he not been overlooked by former coach Alejandro Sabella after the 2011 Copa America where he was blamed for Argentina’s poor show, missing the World Cup run of last summer. Tevez recently returned to the side in a friendly and looks set to be a fixture once more.
11. Marcelo Carrusca (Midfielder, Estudiantes)
Winger Carrusca was a product of the Estudiantes youth system and was beginning to establish himself in the first team at the club. He would play over 100 times for the club before leaving in 2006 to join Turkish giants Galatasaray. His time in Turkey was a disappointment as he rarely played, performed and was unwanted after a year. He left on loan in 2008 for a poor spell in Mexico with Cruz Azul before returning to Estudiantes in 2009. His second spell was a let down and he was loaned out to Banfield in 2010 before being sold in 2011 to San Martin. He left Argentina in 2012 to join current club Adelaide United in Australia where he has recaptured some of his form. Carrusca has never played internationally for Argentina.
12. Lucas Molina (Goalkeeper, Independiente)
A back-up at the tournament, Molina would make his debut for Independiente as a substitute in November 2003 but would mainly be a back-up for the club. Sadly, Molina tragically suffered a heart attack in his sleep on 28 April 2004 and despite the best efforts of doctors, Lucas Molina died at the age of 20.
13. Walter Garcia (Defender, San Lorenzo)
Defender Garcia had only recently completed his move from Argentinos Juniors to San Lorenzo but, after the tournament, established himself as a rock at the back for the club. His performances attracted admiring foreign glances and he was sold to Russian side Rubin Kazan in 2006. He only played 3 times for the club however before being loaned out twice – to Catania in Italy then Quilmes back in Argentina. He left Russia permanently to join Uruguayan giants Nacional in 2008 but never played for the club and left shortly after signing. He joined MLS side New York Red Bulls in the summer of 2009 but only played once before leaving quickly. Garcia returned to Argentina with Juventud Antoniana before a short spell with Guillermo Brown led to him signing with current club Independiente Rivadiva in 2012.
14. Joel Barbosa (Defender, Boca Juniors)
A team mate of Tevez through the youth system at Boca, Barbosa won three Libertadores’ with the club after making his debut in 2000. He was never an undisputed starter and he was sold in 2004 to Almagro. He has since had spells with Talleres, Nueva Chicago, Sarmiento de Junin and Central Norte before joining current club Brown de Adrogue in 2012.
15. Fernando Belluschi (Midfielder, Newell’s Old Boys)
Attacking midfielder Belluschi was already impressing for Newell’s and after the tournament would help his club to the 2004 Apertura title. His performances earned him a move to River Plate in 2006 where he would continue to impress and his performances led to Belluschi leaving Argentina in January 2008 for Greek giants Olympiacos. While in Greece he would win two league and cup doubles before joining Portuguese side Porto in 2009. While in Portugal, Belluschi won two league titles, two Portuguese cups, three Super Cups and the Europa League but fell out of favour in early 2012 and was loaned to Italian side Genoa. He was sold that summer to current club Bursaspor of Turkey. Belluschi made his international debut in 2005 and has won five caps for Argentina.
16. Patricio Perez (Midfielder, Velez Sarsfield)
The youngest member of the squad, Perez made his Velez debut in 2002 but never really broke through into the first team. He was a part of the same successful youth side in 2005 as Zabaleta but would play less than 40 league games for Velez in seven years with the first team. During that time Perez had four loan spells – Leon in Mexico, Everton in Chile and Chacarita and SM Tucuman in Argetnina – before he was sold in 2009 Defensa y Justicia. He left Argentina in 2010 for A-League side Central Coast Mariners where he enjoyed some success but was released in 2011 due to homesickness. He returned to Argentina and had short spells with All Boys, Boca Unidos and Patronato before joining his current club Once Caldas of Colombia in 2014.
17. Emmanuel Rivas (Midfielder, Independiente)
Emmanuel Rivas (white)
A product of the Independiente academy, Rivas never established himself in the side despite helping the club win the 2002 Apertura and was sold in 2004 to Arsenal de Sarandi. His time with Arsenal was poor and he was sold to Portuguese side Vitoria in 2005 where he struggled before being loaned to Greek side Iraklis in 2006 then sold to Tallares in 2007. He returned to Europe on loan in early 2008 with Italian side Arezzo before securing a move that summer to Bari where Rivas got regular game time. He featured regularly in their return to Serie A in 2009/10 and stayed with the club until 2012 when he joined Varese. Short spells with Verona and Spezia followed before he returned to current club Varese in 2014.
18. Leonardo Pisculichi (Striker, Argentinos Juniors)
More comfortable as an attacking midfielder, Pisculichi was used up front in the tournament for his only two games for the U20s and scored once. He impressed enough for Argentinos to secure a move to Spanish side Mallorca in early 2006 where he looked to be settling quickly and even scored against Real Madrid. However, by the end of the year he had been sold to Qatari side Al-Arabi due to his poor performances. He excelled in Qatar and both club and country tried to naturalise him to play for Qatar however his appearances in the tournament stopped that from happening. He was sold to Chinese side Shandong Luneng in 2012 and struggled in China before returning to Argentinos in 2014. His spell was short and he joined current club River Plate in the summer and has helped them win the Copa Sudamericana.
19. Hugo Colace (Midfielder, Argentinos Juniors)
Another product of the Argentinos Juniors youth system, Colace never established himself in the first team despite captaining the U20 side at the tournament and the World Championships in the summer. He was sold to Newell’s in 2005 but struggled to secure his spot and after two loans at Estudiantes and Flamengo of Brazil, he left to join English side Barnsley in 2008. He made over 100 appearances for Barnsley and was their Player of the Year in 2009/10. He left in 2011 to join Mexican side Estudiantes Tecos for a season before he joined French side Auxerre where he lasted just three games before leaving after a few months. He has been without a club ever since.
20. Jonas Gutierrez (Midfielder, Velez Sarsfield)
Already establishing himself with Velez, Gutierrez would go on to impress as the club won the 2005 Clausura. He left not long after to join Spanish side Mallorca where he was a regular for three seasons before rescinding his contract in 2008 under the Webster ruling (essentially players can leave the club freely after three years regardless of how long they have left on deals as long as some compensation is paid) and joined English side Newcastle. He stayed with the club through relegation and was a regular up until 2013. He had a short loan spell with Norwich in early 2014 before announcing he was battling testicular cancer. He has beaten it and is currently on his way back to playing regularly. Gutierrez made his Argentina debut in 2007 and has won 22 caps, scoring once. He was a favourite of Diego Maradona and represented his country at the 2010 World Cup.
Coach – Hugo Tocalli
A former goalkeeper and coach, Tocalli had been a part of the national youth set-up since 1994. He led the Under 20s to the World Cup in 2007 but left not long after to take charge at Velez. He would move on to Chile with Colo-Colo in 2009 where he won the league title in 2010 before leaving for a poor and short spell with Quilmes. He returned to management in 2013 with Chilean Under 20 side, a job he has to this day.
That concludes another edition of “Where Are They Now?”. Stay tuned for more from The Long Ball coming soon.