The worst thing about cliches is that, more often than not, they tend to be true.
If you want a world class defender, buy Italian. A midfield maestro should be Spanish. If you desire tricks then Brazil is the place to look, and should you encounter a dribbling player with a low centre of gravity, more often than not he’s Argentinian.
The Vicente Calderón bore witness to a player of this kind not so long ago. Back in 2006, Sergio Agüero became Atlético Madrid’s record transfer, arriving for a mere €23 million. It seems a bargain by today’s standards, I know.
The player took a season to make the adjustment from defending the colours of Independiente to the red and white stripes of the colchoneros in La Liga.
He formed a formidable partnership alongside Diego Forlan that helped the club qualify for the Champions League for the first time in over 10 years , adding the UEFA Europa League crown and European Super Cup honours to the club’s trophy cabinets in the process.
After 101 goals he left the club, and a different direction was taken.
The era of the powerful lone strikers emerged at the Calderón (Falcao, Costa, Mandzukic and now Jackson Martinez).
However, there were rumours of a small, tricky 18 year old producing sensational displays over in Argentina.
Ángel Correa caught the eye of European scouts thanks to performances for San Lorenzo, where he lifted the Copa Libertadores in 2014. He also captained the Argentinian Under-20 side who conquered the South American tournament that same year.
The comparisons with Agüero were present from the beginning and Atlético Madrid beat interest from other European clubs to sign him. The expectation from the fans grew, however, a heart condition discovered during the transfer medical meant Correa was not fit to play.
The club faced with a difficult decision; to back away from the deal or to help the 20-year-old in this tough battle, not knowing whether he would ever be cleared to play again.
The prospects were not all negative, but there was also no room for false optimism.
Atlético Madrid showed great class in their patience and support during the young footballer’s procedure, recovery and slow introduction into first team training.
A single year after he put pen to paper on a contract, the youngster has made a real impact to this Atlético side.
Simeone has distanced Correa from comparisons with Aguero by claiming the young striker has more to offer.
“Ángel can play in any part of the pitch, as a third forward out wide, or up front if needed. Kun is more a finisher of moves.” stated the manager after an Eibar game that saw Correa score his first goal for the rojiblancos.
Agüero was extremely dangerous when able to run at the opposition at speed in the final third.
Correa’s movement could be described as saying the player has a deep fear of being man-marked. Dropping deep to link up, falling to the wing or simply hovering around the edge of the box waiting to make clever runs that would allow him a shot on goal.
If there is one thing the Calderón faithful love, it’s a daring player. One who is not afraid to sprint at defenders, cause chaos and generate chances.
The fans can forgive mistakes but they cannot forgive a lack of trying, and Simeone shares this philosophy. Correa’s performances have already earned praise from key figures at the club.
“He is learning a lot, and in a short amount of time he will be one of the top players in Europe,” commented stand-out centre-back and club vice-captain Diego Godín.
Correa scored his first Champions League goal in the home loss to Benfica and was, until he was subbed, the best player on the pitch for Atleti during the tense encounter with city rivals Real Madrid.
Those surprised with his selection in the starting eleven were quick to understand the reason behind Cholo Simeone’s decision. During the first half he was the one threat for Atletico, running at defenders and bringing other team-mates into play.
One can marvel at his quality, strength or even his ability to demand a starting spot in such quick fashion (no mean feat under Simeone, just ask Jackson).
What impresses me the most is his confidence, his eagerness to be involved and make things happen; a rare treat at his age.
Like previous impressive performers wearing the Atlético shirt, these have not gone unnoticed by other European giants.
Inter Milan have reportedly sent scouts to watch the flashy Argentinian and one can only expect the frequency of this to increase if he manages to keep improving at this rate.
Whether Correa will become a superstar remains to be seen; what cannot be questioned is that the Calderón faithful do not dare blink while he is in possession.
That uncontrollable spark has been missed from the Atleti team in recent seasons. Future opponents, you have been warned.