Emanuel Mammana: The Future of La Albiceleste’s Defence

Name: Emanuel Mammana
Club: River Plate
Date of Birth: 10th February 1996
Position: Central defender

 

Who is he?

Without even kicking a ball for the River Plate first team much was written about young defender Emanuel Mammana after he followed in the esteemed footsteps of another River graduate, Javier Mascherano. Still only nineteen, the persistent rumours of a switch to Europe remain and with many eyes focused on the youngster it would be no surprise to see that happen this summer.

Born in Merlo, just to the west of Buenos Aires, but within the same province, Mammana was quickly snapped up by River Plate’s academy and from a young age was hailed by both club and country as being a defender with enormous potential. After finishing third with the Argentina under-15s at the South American championships in 2011, Mammana stepped up into the under-17s division and two years later helped Argentina to the title on home soil.

The subsequent under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates ended in disappointment after a semi-final defeat to Mexico but Mammana’s defensive quality and composure had caught the eye and he was already being groomed for greater things. At this point the 18-year-old Mammana had not played a single minute for River Plate’s first team, but in 2014 he replicated the achievements of Javier Mascherano by making his first full international appearance before doing so at club level.

Having impressed Alejandro Sabella during the pre-World Cup training camp as part of the sparring team for the squad travelling to Brazil, Mammana was awarded a 15 minute cameo at the end of the friendly against Slovenia. Poetically, Mammana replaced Mascherano to make his Argentina debut and the fleeting appearance only added fuel to the belief that the youngster was the future of La Albiceleste’s defence.

After the World Cup, in October 2014, Mammana made his full River debut when he played against Rosario Central in the Copa Argentina and although he is still not a guaranteed starter under Marcelo Gallardo, his involvement and responsibility has increased. At the beginning of the year, Mammana was the cornerstone of the Argentina under-20 defence that was crowned South American Champions and has since grown in stature at River.

Gallardo opted to play the 19-year-old in favour of the established Gabriel Mercado at right-back in vital Copa Libertadores matches and although there are still moments of recklessness, Mammana has nearly always impressed.

 

What type of player?

Hailing from a region of the world better known for its attacking flair than its defensive capabilities, Mammana is a typically stylish central defender. The type of player more likely to intercept a pass before carrying the ball fifty yards into the midfield to start an attack rather than sticking his head where it hurts and hacking the ball into the stands.

Immensely comfortable in possession, Mammana strides out of defence with aplomb, rarely looking flustered and providing the initial passes for an attack. Without being the most physical and commanding of defenders his talent lies in his reading of the game and his timely interventions and he has also shown off a decent burst of speed whilst Marcelo Gallardo has tested him at right-back for River.

That being said there is certainly room for improvement, as you would expect from a 19-year-old, as Mammana can still be found guilty of hastiness. En route to winning theunder-20 South American championships there were examples of this that were understandably glossed over by Argentina lifting the trophy but he was also at fault for Cruzeiro’s away goal in the Monumental during this year’s Quarter Final first leg.

Provided this element to his play is gradually phased out and he continues to develop both physically and positionally, Mammana’s potential has no limit.

 

What next?

Given his list of achievements, his reputation and his young age it is little wonder that Mammana is attracting such attention across Europe. Although more of a natural central defender than Mascherano, all these clubs will be hoping that they can steal a march on their rivals and snap up a player who could develop into someone of El Jefecito’s stature.

Scouts have been intently watching the youngster both with Argentina and with River and the North London rivals of Tottenham and Arsenal have both been linked with moves, as have Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan. With the amount of time Mammana has played in the same team as Simeone’s son, Giovani the link of Atleti is an obvious one but perhaps the most likely to come to fruition.

With so few first team matches under his belt a wisely chosen next career step is important. Gradually growing into the River side will undoubtedly aid his development far more than heading to Europe to sit in the reserves somewhere and so maybe a transfer will not come to anything this summer.

However, that move will almost certainly come and Argentina will be hoping Mammana realizes the potential that most believe he has.

 

Written by Peter Coates

Follow Peter on Twitter @golazoargentino

You can check out more of his excellent work on Argentinian football through his website, Golazo Argentino

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