Players to Watch: CONMEBOL Libertadores First Phase
By: Simon Edwards
The CONMEBOL Libertadores returns this week with six clubs from six nations beginning a journey they hope will end in the group stage of the continent’s biggest club competition.
With the action resuming in South America’s biggest proving ground, we look at some of the emerging stars and key players who will hope to make the difference in the first phase.
Fabricio Díaz (18) – Liverpool
Diaz is a very mature, tenacious and tidy central midfielder who progresses the ball well and is a very effective ball-winner. Capable of playing in front of the defense or as a hard-working mixed midfielder, he covers a lot of ground and reads the game really well. In 2020 the battling midfielder was involved with the Uruguay u-20 side and despite his young age has been an important member of the Liverpool squad for over a year.
Quick, athletic and elegant, he combines impressive physical capacities with composure, toughness and technical ability. A player with qualities beyond his years who could be one to watch.
Ignacio Ramírez (24) – Liverpool
While Díaz is the emerging talent to watch, Ignacio ‘Colo’ Ramírez has already proven to be the real deal. Ramírez has scored 42 goals in his last 56 games with 7 in 9 games already in 2021 as Liverpool wrap up the 2020 Uruguayan Clausura. The clinical, smart, dynamic poacher was wanted by some of the biggest clubs in South America over the past few months, but Liverpool fans will be delighted to have retained their star striker.
Ramírez has scored two goals for the Uruguay u-23 side; at every step of his career he has never yet failed to create and convert consistently. Able to score all types of goals, the clinical finisher will undoubtedly be one of the most feared forwards at this round of the Libertadores.
Rockson Renteria (19) – Universidad Católica (Ecuador)
Renteria is a very quick, athletic, proactive central defender who enjoys the defensive side of the game and has good agility to go toe-to-toe with even the most energetic forwards. The pacey defender is strong in the tackle and very competitive in the air.
The latest of an exciting generation of Ecuadorian talent, Renteria is definitely one to watch and he has become an important first team player at Universidad Católica over the past year. The club also have high hopes for defender Kevin Minda (19), a recent signing from Liga de Quito, and Yarol Tafur (19) a very exciting, expressive forward yet to fully establish himself in the first team.
Erick Morillo (21) – Universidad César Vallejo
Morillo is a very complete fullback for Peruvian side UCV who is capable of getting forward to support but also recover with good pace to defend as possession is lost. The high-rated defender is now very much in the Peruvian national team conversation and provides a great deal of quality from the right side of the field. Morillo is capable of dribbling past his opponent to get to the byline, but can also whip a nice delivery from deep.
Eduardo Fereira (20) – Caracas FC
While it is Morillo who will be an exciting player to watch for Cesar Vallejo, their Libertadores rivals also have a very talented right-sided fullback of their own. Eduardo Fereira has been a very consistent performer for Venezuela at the youth level and for his club Caracas, including some head-turning performances in last year’s Libertadores.
The quick, athletic, solid defender is very comfortable breaking forward and providing a superb outlet on the right side of the field. Confident, mature and composed, he uses the ball well and is very comfortable in tough defensive duels. Fereira also crosses the ball well and can often operate as an important creator either from wide areas or stepping inside into the middle of the field.
Playmaker Anderson Contreras (19) and striker Saúl Guarirapa (18) are also extremely interesting talents but will miss significant time with long-term injuries.
Mirko Tomianovic (19) – Royal Pari
While the Bolivian Libertadores debutants have largely built a side around experience, they do have a very interesting u-20 international who is capable of a real moment of magic.
Mirko Tomianovic is capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, but has most frequently been deployed on the right-hand side. Quick, agile and very confident on the ball, the dynamic midfielder is very useful in quickly progressing the ball up field.
Tomianovic scored a spectacular long-range strike at the start of December 2020 and became a regular in the very congested end of the Bolivian season. It may just be Tomianovic who could provide some invention for an otherwise organized side.
Roberto Fernández (20) – Guaraní
Fernández is a tall, intelligent, mature left-sided central defender who is dominant in the air and capable of using the ball every well. The Paraguayan u-23 international has become increasingly important for Guaraní and should continue to justify the high hopes many have for him.
The twenty year-old defender can cover the ground well and is strong in the tackle when needed. As well as the toughness you would expect from a Paraguayan defender, he also has a lovely ping as he plays impressive diagonal passes from deep.