2018 22under22 Countdown – #6: Lautaro Martinez

“Lautaro Martinez is fantastic. Even if he’s young he’s got a winning mentality and a professional attitude that is so impressive. He’s got an incredible physique, he’s strong in the air, he knows how to press defenders, and he’s very strong technically.” – Diego Milito

Date of Birth: August 22nd, 1997 (20 years old)
Nationality: Argentine
Position: Striker
Club Appearances: 56 (25 goals, 6 assists)
International Appearances: 1
EiF Ability Rating: 65

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.

Argentina is a country with an uncanny ability to produce world-class strikers and a young man named Lautaro Martinez may just be the next one on that list. With his transfer essentially sealed to join Inter Milan, Lautaro will be able to show Europe how talented he really is.

Martinez grew up in Bahia Blanca, a port city 8 hours south of Buenos Aires. He played in Liniers’ youth academy until one of the biggest clubs in Argentina saw him play. Racing Club de Avellaneda did not hesitate and offered him a youth contract to join the ranks of the club in 2014. Growing up, he tried to model his game off of Luis Suarez and Radamel Falcao. He certainly showed prolific goal scoring qualities like his idols as he dominated at the youth level, scoring 53 goals in 64 appearances for “La Reserva” at Racing. He was so impressive that Real Madrid made a verbal agreement with Racing in order to acquire his signing rights. Lautaro later declined the offer in order to stay in Argentina.

Lautaro Martinez

He had the opportunity of a lifetime when first team regular Lisandro Lopez went down injured in the 2016-17 season, and as a result Martinez saw more and more playing time. He started getting into an impressive goal scoring rhythm, netting 25 goals in 56 appearances, and even captained Racing despite only being 20 years of age.

So, what makes this kid so special? Many love to compare his skillset to that of Kun Aguero. At 1.75 m tall, Martinez is not by any means the tallest striker one could find, but he has unbelievable strength, a low center of gravity, and natural athleticism to compete with more physically imposing center backs. He pairs these physical attributes perfectly with a cunning ability to score with both feet, from varied angles and distances on the pitch. He is elusive, never short of confidence, and loves to terrorize defenders with his powerful accelerations.

Mental aspects that set him apart from others youngsters his age are his leadership skills and willingness to never be satisfied with his performances. Martinez’s confidence is noticeable on the pitch. He is respected amongst his peers as they appreciate his tenacity and drive.

After an incredible hat trick against Cruzeiro when Argentine national team coach Jorge Sampaoli was watching in the stands, Lautaro in a post-match interview uttered that he had had a poor performance overall. He was angry with himself for missing what he thought were clear opportunities and for having lost the ball too many times. Many other youngsters would be satisfied, bask in the moment, and be content, but Lautaro is constantly thinking about how he can improve and that is what is so impressive about him. We have only cracked the surface of what he can achieve. He is willing to go above and beyond to take his game to new levels.

Martinez can still make improvements as a player. Sometimes he gets carried away with his confidence and ability to make plays. He can be more poised, assured in possession by picking and choosing moments in which to attack, and moments in which to take a safer option by retaining possession. Once he moves to Europe, he will be playing against better competition, which will help him improve his first touch and finishing. In Argentina he has been wasteful at times, missing opportunities that he would normally bury. With time and maturity, these are things that he can improve on in order to become more consistent.

Lautaro Martinez’s exclusion from Argentina’s World Cup squad is surely one Sampaoli could deeply miss. He brings invigorating passion, youth, and abundant quality to any team. If all rumors are true, Inter Milan is coming away with an absolute gem of a footballer. It’s reported that his release clause at Inter Milan will be 120 million euros and it would not be surprising if some huge European clubs are quite willing to pay that fee in the coming years. He has the potential to be a generational talent, a striker that can score hundreds of goals for a European great. With patience and trust in his abilities, Martinez can become one of Argentina’s many historic strikers.

Written by Joaquin Delmar (@joaquin_delmar)