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Name: Jonathan Calleri
Club: Boca Juniors
Date of birth: 23 September 1993
Who is he?
Boca Juniors have seen some pretty good forwards in recent years: Gabriel Batistuta, Martin Palermo and Carlos Tevez for example have all excelled in the blue and gold. Moving to perhaps the biggest club side in South America is a daunting ask for a 21-year-old striker but young Jonathan Calleri has appeared to revel in the challenge and now finds himself not only dubbed ‘the new Gonzalo Higuain’ but linked to a host of European clubs.
As the nephew of Argentine international defender, Nestor Fabbri, Jonathan Calleri grew up in Buenos Aires surrounded by football from a young age. Six years before he was born, Uncle Nestor was named Argentine footballer of the year, and although the two are very different footballers, both began their respective careers with Club Atletico All Boys in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Floresta.
Calleri came through the youth ranks with All Boys and made his first team debut as a second half substitute away to Argentinos Juniors in the 2013 Torneo Inicial, but with starting places difficult to come-by Calleri was restricted to just a single headed goal before the end of the campaign.
With El Albo in real relegation trouble during the Torneo Final, Calleri began to get more opportunities and although the 20-year-old ended the season as the club’s leading scorer he could not prevent them sliding down to the Nacional B. However, impressively taken goals against Boca Juniors and River Plate alerted the Buenos Aires giants to move swiftly after their relegation.
Carlos Bianchi’s Boca signed a percentage of the youngster for $300,000 and he made the move across the city to La Bombonera for the Torneo Transicion. Behind Emanuel Gigliotti and Juan Manuel Martinez, Calleri struggled for a starting berth under Bianchi but did score his first goal for Los Xeniezes away to Estudiantes.
When Rodolfo Arruabarrena arrived to replace Bianchi, further opportunities arose as the younger manager sought to implement a 4-3-3 based around some of Boca’s younger players. Calleri reaped the rewards and ended the season with seven goals from his fourteen appearances.
The arrival of Dani Osvaldo in 2015 has once again seen competition for places increase but Calleri has continued to score goals. His exquisite lob against Temperley at the start of the season may well be a contender for goal of the season and shows off his underrated technical ability.
What type of player is he?
The media tagline of ‘the next Gonzalo Higuain’ is of course wheeled out to generate interest in transfer rumours but there are similarities between the two Argentine strikers. When you watch the vast majority of Calleri’s goals while at All Boys and at Boca, they rely on good movement and a quick burst of acceleration in the penalty box to gain just a yard of space on the defender before finishing instinctively.
Higuain has proved incredibly successful at this but has honed his skill over some years in Europe, Calleri is still raw and his finishing is of course not at the level of the Argentine internationals but the ingredients are certainly there.
At this early stage of his career, Calleri still runs the channels far more and drifts out wide rather than play as a traditional number nine type of centre-forward.
His hold-up play is not at the level of Higuain’s and as a sub-six-footer, he is certainly no target man, but with a good burst of speed, excellent technique and an eye for goal, Calleri is a forward full of potential.
A 21-year-old scoring goals for Boca Juniors attracts plenty of interest from Europe but there are rumours that the club themselves might be willing to cash in on Calleri. Money is tight now in Argentina and with Boca hopeful of bringing Southampton striker Dani Osvaldo to La Bombonera permanently, they will need to balance the books.
If newspaper stories are to be believed than the sale of Calleri would be a part of this and with an asking price of $10 million it would certainly do that but also represent a very tidy profit.
Whether that happens this summer remains to be seen but Calleri’s future appears to lie in Europe. Premier League side Arsenal have been heavily linked for the best part of six months but they are far from alone, with other interest from England, Spain, Italy and France.
The next move will be an important one, as Calleri is far from the finished product. A move to a title chasing side like Arsenal may see the striker spending long spells on the bench or in reserve football, but with a decent amount of playing time he could really develop.
Villarreal are one of the sides linked with a move and as we have seen this season with Luciano Vietto it proved to be a perfect level for a striker finding his way in Europe.
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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