A step-over king with an eye for goal, Lucas Ocampos may only be 17 but the young Argentine has a bright future ahead of him.. Chelsea are the latest club to be linked with him and would be wise to snap up the new CR7.
River Plate may be suffering the ignominy of playing in Argentina’s second division for the first time in 102 years but the club’s famed youth system continues to uncover exciting talent. Having recently sold Erik Lamela to Roma and loaned Manuel Lanzini to Fluminense, River already have a new wunderkind making waves in the first team in Lucas Ocampos. The 17-year-old has recently been linked with
, Bayern Munich, Milan, Inter, Manchester United and Liverpool after a blazing start to his River career.
Ocampos is a professed admirer of
and cites the Real Madrid star as a major influence on his footballing style. The similarities between the two are hard to ignore. The young Argentinian is physically imposing at 1.87m and 80kg. He is also a prodigious dribbler who enjoys taking on his marker. Most notable is his pace. Fast as a jackrabbit, Ocampos can burst past defenders on the left wing before cutting inside or laying passes in to teammates. He favours his right side when dribbling, though like any Argentinian attacking player worth his salt he possesses a powerful, accurate shot with either foot.
Having started kicking a ball about at the age of four and played as a youngster in five-a-side and seven-a-side football, Ocampos was scouted by his local team, Quilmes Atlético Club. As he had never played on a full-sized pitch before, Ocampos was unable to tell coaching staff at Quilmes what position he favoured, and was originally tried as a right-sided fullback for two years. Later he was used as a box-to-box midfielder before his eye for goal saw him moved to the number 9 position where he proved an adept marksman. He scored at underage levels against both Boca and River and earned himself a transfer to the latter, as well as a call up to Argentina’s Under 15 national team and later to the Under 17 squad, where he shone at the World Championships in February of this year, playing as a forward. Upon his return to River, Ocampos was integrated into the first team for pre-season training by new manager Matias Almeyda.
Like an early-version Cristiano, Ocampos will occasionally attempt a dazzling stepover when a simple sideways pass would be more effective.
The recently-retired Almeyda was highly impressed with what he saw and selected the starlet for River’s first match of the season against Chacarita, where he performed superbly playing as a left-sided attacking midfielder. Ocampos’ place in the first team is now secure as he has been one of River’s standout players during the club’s first ever Nacional B campaign. He scored with a towering header in his second match and has added two more goals and a handful of assists since. It was only a matter of time before the big European clubs took notice.
The obvious question is whether a kid who has played less than a dozen games in Argentina’s second division is capable of making the switch to one of Europe’s big-name clubs in what would be one of the most expensive transfers ever for a teenager if the figures being bandied about are to be believed. The short answer, of course, is that it is too early to tell. Nobody can claim to have seen enough of Ocampos to confidently assert he will flourish in Europe, but the signs are positive. The main point of uncertainty whenever an Argentinian talent moves to the Old Continent is how the player will cope with the amplified physicality and pace of European football. Ocampos should not have any problems in those areas – as has been mentioned he excels in those facets of the game.
There are slight question marks over his decision-making abilities at this early stage of his career, which is understandable for one so young who only knows how to play at one speed, Fast Forward. Like an early-version Cristiano, Ocampos will occasionally attempt a dazzling stepover when a simple sideways pass would be more effective. He is not an overly selfish player, however, and one would assume he will learn better how to apply his talents as he gains precious experience, whether it is in Argentinian or European football.
Should a European giant sign him in the near future, they may consider loaning him out for a year or so in order for the player to get more games under his belt, though he could conceivably be used as an impact substitute at even the highest level. In terms of the potential that he offers, a multimillion dollar investment in Ocampos does not seem a ludicrous move at this stage. There is a reason such figures are being mentioned, and a reason that River Plate fans are debating whether he should even be let go at such a price. That a rare talent has been revealed in recent months is undeniable. That a luminous future lies ahead for Lucas Ocampos is all but inevitable.
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