Santos v Cerro Porteno
When Santos and Cerro Porteno meet in the Copa Libertadores, a lot of attention will be devoted to the battle between two highly-rated teenagers. Sadly the words ‘Justin Bieber’, ‘an aging and rabid Wellard’ and ‘to the death’ don’t feature as the battle is more about prodigious football talent.
For Santos, Neymar is regarded as the future. Not the future in the sense of spending his life with the club and winning loads of trophies with them; the future as in ‘we plan to flog him to the fool with the biggest chequebook and therefore provide financial security for the foreseeable future – now where did I put Peter Kenyon’s number?’ He’s only 19 years of age, but already forests have been razed to the ground to accommodate the sheer volume of dull transfer rumours linking him with a move to one of Europe’s top clubs. And Chelsea. As recently as last summer, the Pensioners thought a possible deal had moved far enough along to warrant the purchase of a one-way ticket for the teenager to come to London. In the end, his father pulled the plug on the move, concerned that his son was too young to handle the immense pressure. And that the transfer fee wasn’t yet big enough.
He’s not the only youthful jewel being ogled by European clubs. Throughout their history, they’ve been a production line of superstar talent to rival the Mickey Mouse Club. In 1956 the unleashed a young man by the name of Pele on the world and famously, he would go on to become arguably the greatest erectile dysfunction medication salesman of them all. The conveyer belt has been ticking along nicely ever since, but whilst Pele and his contemporaries got the chance to stick around and dominate Brazilian football (league champions from 1961 to 65), the current crop are likely to be en route to Europe from the moment they execute their first pointless step-over. Ganso and Alan Patrick (must have some Irish in him somewhere) are amongst the other starlets European clubs have been sniffing around. Combined with former Manchester inhabitants, Rodrigo Possebon and Elano, it’s a mix of youth and experience that should make for a disappointing Round of 16 exit from the Copa Libertadores.
Be honest, when you read ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ you were expecting a picture of Man City
In the Cerro Porteno corner, Juan Iturbe is the cash cow that will hopefully set them up financially for a few years. He’s only 17, but already he’s been flogged to Europe. He’ll join Porto (a) at the end of the Copa Libertadores campaign or (b) when he turns 18 – whichever one makes it look a little less like child trafficking. He’s also got a couple of options for his international football, but barring the rapid onset of senility or a incorrectly dialled number, he’s unlikely to get a phone call from Giovanni Trapattoni. He was born in Argentina to Paraguayan parents and rather than opting for a career of noble defeats with Paraguay, he looks set opt for the career of devastating underperformances that he’ll more than likely get from Argentina. Underlining his impressive potential, he scored twice in a 5-2 victory over Chilean giants, Colo Colo a couple of weeks ago when he came off the bench at half time. We would say it’s increased the price tag substantially, but Porto had the good sense to seal the deal a couple of months ago so they won’t mind.
The odds are interesting. Santos are the hosts, which goes some of the way to explaining why they’re favourites, but falls shot of telling us why they’re heavy odds on to win at 1/3. Cerro Porteno had that impressive win over Colo Colo (it was 2-0 after just 7 minutes) and without being at the highest point in the club’s history, will still put it up to the Brazilians. Sometimes in South American football, playing in the thin atmosphere up in the mountains can seriously impair a team’s ability to give a good account of themselves, but when they visit the Brazilian port, the worst danger the Paraguayan giants are likely to face is sunburn and some dodgy seafood. 7/1 doesn’t look like a risk of ‘several million for an untested teenager’ proportions.
This Copa Libertadores battle of the bambinos kicks off at 12.45am and you can watch in for free and no strings attached on PaddyPower.com (The string is you have to have an account so you log-in)