Three for Thursday: Argentine playmakers with the potential to be MLS stars
We've become big fans of the Argentine playmaker here in MLS. From the great masterminds of years past like Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Christian Gómez to the Valeri/Higuaín/Morales generation, those skillful attacking midfielders, known in their homelands as enganches, have regularly given MLS defenses nightmares with their creativity, skill and willingness to try the extraordinary.
Though often smaller in stature, they come with a wide variety of skills, tricks and exceptional fundamentals that enable them to be the focus of a team's attack – keeping possession, putting teammates into dangerous positions and scoring some of the best goals you'll see anywhere (Yup, well, that that as yet another opportunity to link Federico Higuain's ridiculous chip against the Red Bulls).
Here are three more Argentine playmakers that could fit the bill for an MLS side (at a price, of course):
We'll kick it off with a player who's been linked to MLS: the diminutive Moralez (right), who was reportedly a DP target for Toronto FC earlier this year. At 5-foot-3, he stands at the same height as Real Salt Lake's Joao Plata and brings an equally impressive bag of tricks, which include not only the vision and technique normally associated with the enganche, but a healthy dose of speed and off the ball movement, too.
Moralez originally burst onto the scene as one of the stars of Argentina's incredible U-20 World Cup-winning team in 2007 – the one with Sergio Agüero, Éver Banega and Ángel di María, not to mention the Columbus Crew's own Matías Sánchez. Among all that star talent, he claimed the tournament's Silver Ball award for second-best player and Bronze Shoe award for third-highest goalscorer.
He parlayed that into a brief move to Russia, and finally stuck in Europe with Serie A's Atalanta after spending some time back in his homeland. He is currently enjoying his time in Italy, but as MLS teams get more ambitious and more willing to utilize their DP slots, it's well within the realm of possibility to imagine a player like Moralez making the move.
Though the traditional Argentine enganche, someone in the Riquelme mold, is becoming less prevalent in Europe, players like "La Hachita" (above) have found space to flourish in the Liga MX (see also: Lucas Lobos, among others).
What makes Ludueña likely a better fit than a guy like Lobos is a more fluid club situation and a more fluid style of play. Though his passing ability and touch make him a natural fit to lead the attack centrally, he also brings the mobility and speed to create dangerous looks from out wide and cope with the more phyisical MLS style of play.
Throw in the fact that Ludueña is already somewhat familiar with MLS due to his time with Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League, where he often played alongside one Herculez Gomez, and you have a solid fit for a team looking to add a dose of creativity to their attack this offseason.
Not as widely recognized as the other two on the list, but nonetheless a player who shown immense quality in a more traditional No. 10 role during his time playing in South America and Mexico.
Montillo forged a respectable career first for San Lorenzo in his homeland, then for Morelia in Mexico, but it was his time with Universidad de Chile that brought him to the continent's attention. He was the centerpiece of the team's run to the semifinals of the 2010 Copa Libertadores, where his star performance against Flamengo caught the eye in Brazil.
He adapted nicely to the often grueling Brazilian soccer calendar, first with Cruzeiro and now with Santos – and he's added six caps with the Albiceleste as well. Blessed with superb passing ability, a good amount of speed and a mean shot, it would be very tough for an MLS team to pry him away from the lucrative Brazilian league, but if a team up here is looking to splash the cash on a DP to build an attack around, they could do much, much worse than Montillo.
Are there any other Argentine playmakers you'd like to see in MLS? Make your voice heard in the comments below!