The Argentinian media lit up last week, as if one mass email had been sent out to firstname.lastname@example.org, with reports that Manchester City were about to activate the release clause of River Plate’s striker, Julián Álvarez.
At first, I assumed we were on the receiving end of what I’m going to affectionately call “Gazzetta Dello Sport” syndrome – where Italian media conjure up a story with such suspicious synchronisation that ultimately leads to nothing that the only possible explanation is that an agent has used the club in question to hype up their client and generate some interest.
Never heard of him before? Ha, you pleb. Don’t you watch the Argentine Primera División? Do you even like football?
Well, buckle up, because you’re about to get a crash course in why Julián Álvarez is the answer to our striker problems.
Some people have read multiple scouting reports from reliable journalists in the country, some people watch the occasional high profile River Plate game and some people are just actual River Plate fans who religiously watch their team week in and week out.
But there’s one thing they’re all missing – Football Manager 2022.
Now, the biggest thing to note here is that Álvarez has 13 dribbling, 14 finishing and 16 first touch – a very respectable combination of what us Football Manager experts (and I’m quite the expert) call ‘the holy trinity’. Any striker worth his salt has got a good combination of those three.
Look elsewhere around the report and he’s got 15 technique and 15 long shots – this guy is going to be scoring long range screamers for fun. 15 off the ball movement ensures that he’ll find himself in the right position to finish off a chance more often than not. 15 stamina means his recovery time and his ability to keep running at 100% throughout a game is as efficient as possible.
But look at that flair. 17 flair. You know who else has 17 flair? Riyad Mahrez. Jack Grealish. Bernardo Silva. Joao Cancelo. This is the level. Elite.
He’s most accomplished as an Advanced Forward, as you can see, which means that he’ll mostly look to lead the line in a much more traditional sense, though his skillset means he’s plenty capable of being a Deep Lying Forward who affects play from closer to the midfield.
And there you have it. You now know everything there is to know about Julián Álvarez.
Much as I wish this was the case, it very much is not the case.
I actually don’t really know anything about the player at all. I’ve watched him play precisely zero minutes of football outside of a compilation video I watched on YouTube, though I’ve heard his name briefly mentioned multiple times over the last couple of years, as he’s been linked to the likes of Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
He’s coming in with a lot of hype, as plenty of people within Argentina are saying that he’s the best attacking talent to come out of the country for quite some time and many believing that he’s more ready for Manchester City’s first team than some of the Manchester-based journalists would suggest the club believes.
It’s raising some questions about City’s pursuit of a top drawer striker in the summer, which by all accounts is still very much on, with Julian Álvarez’s arrival not being seen as the answer to the striker issue at the club and more as somebody to complement another, if he even remains at the club next season.
I’d personally still be very happy to see an Erling Haaland or a Dusan Vlahovic arrive at the club in the summer, if that’s still in the club’s plans, because those are signings that legitimately change the game for the club over the next decade at a minimum.
But some think Julian Álvarez might already have the potential to be that player.
I’m certainly not making any judgement on whether he is or not, I’m in no position to do so. However, there’s something to be said for the sheer excitement of a relatively unknown South American quantity coming in with plenty of hype – a young wonderkid who could surprise us all after coming in quite under the radar.
If he’s coming in with this level of hype, I’d personally be quite happy for the club to almost take a bit of gamble on him next season.
A lot of people (and Pep Guardiola is almost certainly one of them) would absolutely not like to see the club risk anything and want the most absolute sure-thing kind of signing possible, which is totally understandable.
But what’s the point of football without a little bit of intrigue and excitement surrounding the unknown? If you can’t take the odd risk here and there, especially when adding to an already top-level squad, then why not?
Honestly, if the club decided that the likes of Erling Haaland and Dusan Vlahovic are more expensive than the club are willing to pay, and if Harry Kane is no longer on their Christmas card list, then I’d be quite happy to see the club continue with the false-nine system which has served the club so well both this season and last.
This would give us Álvarez to come in for the games where Pep would genuinely prefer a traditional striker, though with him newly adapting to a country and still relatively young, as well as also being a much more low-key signing, there’d be nowhere near the same pressure to play him every single game as there would be with a Haaland or a Kane.
Having one striker instead of two (although Julian Álvarez is accomplished across that entire front line) also means you aren’t benching two strikers on the odd occasion where you’d prefer the false-nine.
Of course, this is all blind speculation and I would imagine that the very public pursuit of Harry Kane last summer, followed by the fact we’ve moved swiftly to sign a striker in January and made it clear that we’re still in the market for one of the big boys in summer, probably suggests that Pep Guardiola wouldn’t be too happy if we just went, “Ah, here’s Álvarez, off you go!”
But it would be great, wouldn’t it, if Sergio Aguero’s replacement came out of Argentina. Another early-20s Argentinian striker making his start to life at Manchester City with a lot of promise and hype, it’s too good to be true… right?
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