EPL

Next Generation – Man City's Kluiverth Aguilar is a new beacon of hope for under-explored Peruvian football

By Sports Desk April 24, 2020

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s. 

 

While their white jersey with the red sash may be iconic in world football, Peru certainly isn't considered by the layman as a hotbed of talent.

Peru's Primera Division is seen as something of a retirement home for its former national team players who have been in second-tier leagues, like Mexico's Liga MX or MLS, while exports aren't exactly aplenty.

Peruvian newspaper El Comercio counts just 47 Peru natives playing abroad, while they also believe these players highlight the main issue for the country in terms of development; very few are defenders.

And that, for some, is what makes Manchester City's purchase of Kluiverth Aguilar, a 16-year-old right-back from Alianza Lima, all the more encouraging.

Causing a stir

Aguilar's rise to prominence has been swift, as Peruvian journalist Diego Montalvan explains to Stats Perform: "The first time I became aware of Aguilar was after all the talk about a Peruvian kid that had been the best full-back in the South American Under-17 Championship last year."

However, Aguilar had already been causing a stir in youth football before that tournament, which took place across March and April. He played that competition – hosted in Peru – having sparked a little controversy in joining Alianza Lima a month prior.

Sporting Cristal were under the impression he was their player, having impressed with his local side Regatas, but Alianza exploited the lack of a formal agreement to make Aguilar theirs, and that resulted in accusations of disloyalty. It soon became clearer why Sporting were so angry.

Despite being only 15 at the time, making him among the youngest players at the tournament, Aguilar was a standout performer for a Peru side that made it to the second group stage, only to narrowly miss out on a place at the Under-17 World Cup.

Tall, quick, tenacious and technically sound, Aguilar's performances went down particularly well at Alianza.

The team swiftly moved him up to their reserve team and that was quickly followed by promotion to the senior selection, even being named in the squad for two Copa Libertadores games.

"He's adapted very well since his debut with Alianza, being thrown into the semi-final and final of the 2019 season, he played as if he had been a regular starter all season," Diego adds of the teenager.

Out of the blue?

While the signing may have raised some eyebrows in England, Diego is adamant Alianza weren't surprised by such a deal so soon. "I don't think it's a surprise to Alianza at all that he's moving to a big club," he said.

"Peruvian media have always talked about his potential in a positive light because, so far, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. Negatives being that he's young and still needs to perfect his craft, his defensive positioning also needs to be worked on.

"He's an offensive minded right-back that combines speed and stamina to overlap and cross, or use his speed to open up space, dribble, create chances and even cut inside to shoot. The way he plays reminds me of Dani Alves, although he still has a lot to learn and master to get to his level."

As it turns out, the transfer to City had been over a year in the making. The Premier League champions had – according to Alianza's head of youth recruitment, Jaime Duarte – been in Peru for the youth tournament and decided as long ago as that to sign Aguilar.

"It was impressive because there was a sea of scouts from all over the world," Duarte told Libero. "Man City has a headquarters in Brazil and there is a manager [Carlos Santoro] who covers all of South America. He had come to Lima and he tells one of their chiefs [Gary Worthington, head of player recruitment], I think Pep Guardiola's right-hand man, to take a plane to Peru to see a 15-year-old.

"Scouts always look at the Brazilian, Argentinian and Uruguayan full-backs, but Kluiverth was rated the best South American full-back, and then came the approach with his manager. From there he was already [gone]."

According to the Peruvian media, Worthington only needed to watch for "a few minutes" before approving a move.

The long road

Aguilar's very being is clearly heavily influenced by football - the names of he and his brothers, Diego Armando and Rijkaard, all carry obvious inspiration rooted in their father's love for the game.

That has certainly rubbed off on Aguilar, who is clearly a fine talent for his age. But however talented he may be, the route to the City first-team will likely be long and arduous, assuming he is a success – and that's no guarantee for a 16-year-old.

Aguilar will join up with City next May when he turns 18. From there, his future becomes a little cloudier as one considers his next steps. Will he be expected to develop in the reserves? Can he force his way into first-team reckoning ahead of the 2021-22 season? Or will he just become engulfed by the City Football Group machine and be bandied around between clubs?

It seems the best indicator as to City's plan for Aguilar - or 'Cyborg', as he's known to some team-mates - is to consider Yangel Herrera, the Venezuelan talent the club plucked from relative obscurity in 2017.

Since then, the defensive midfielder has spent two seasons on loan with sister club New York City, half a year in LaLiga with Huesca before returning to Spain's top-flight this term with Granada, where he has impressed.

Fortunately, Aguilar appears switched-on and humble, acknowledging spells away from City are likely, telling Alianza's club channels: "At the moment I think first of being a champion with Alianza and if later City want to train me in other clubs, I will do so to be able to reach the first team."

The value of the transfer is shrouded in uncertainty, with Alianza insisting they received significantly less than the $2.8million fee being reported, but with an apparent 30 per cent sell-on, there's every chance this deal will eventually go down as the biggest in domestic Peruvian football history.

Regardless of how Aguilar's career progresses in England, one thing is clear; his move is a major boost for Peru, an undertapped source in football.

Related items

  • Ronaldo nominated for UEFA TOTY for 17th straight year as Bayern dominate Ronaldo nominated for UEFA TOTY for 17th straight year as Bayern dominate

    Cristiano Ronaldo has been nominated for the UEFA Men's Team of the Year for a 17th successive year but unsurprisingly it is Champions League winners Bayern Munich who dominate.

    UEFA announced its shortlist for fan voting on Tuesday and Bayern led the way in terms of nominations, with 10 players – including new Liverpool signing Thiago Alcantara – up for inclusion.

    The 50-name shortlist was determined by UEFA on the basis of the players' respective performances in European and domestic competition throughout 2020.

    Bayern claimed European club football's biggest prize for a sixth time in August, beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 at the Estadio da Luz as the Champions League's delayed latter stages were completed in Lisbon because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Kingsley Coman, scorer of the winning goal in the final, is among the Bayern players nominated, while Robert Lewandowski – the top-scorer with 15 last term – seems a likely bet for a place in the final XI.

    Ronaldo is present yet again, the 17th year in a row in which he has been nominated, as he hopes to extend his record of 14 inclusions in the line-up. He is four clear of Lionel Messi, who is also in the running again.

    Alphonso Davies, 20, is the youngest nominee while the oldest is 36-year-old Thiago Silva, who helped PSG reach the Champions League final before joining Chelsea in pre-season.

    The Premier League and Bundesliga are the most-represented leagues with 15 players to have at some point this year played in either division.

    UEFA also revealed the shortlist for the Women's Team of the Year, with Women's Champions League winners Lyon having 13 players – including the since-departed Lucy Bronze – in contention.

  • Jimenez hopes to return 'soon' from fractured skull as Wolves star provides update Jimenez hopes to return 'soon' from fractured skull as Wolves star provides update

    Raul Jimenez hopes he can return to action "soon" but will remain under observation for the time being after suffering a fractured skull against Arsenal on Sunday.

    Wolves claimed a 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium but the occasion was soured early on by a sickening injury sustained by the Mexican.

    In just the fifth minute, Jimenez contested an aerial duel with David Luiz and the pair clashed heads.

    He required roughly 10 minutes of medical attention before he was eventually carried away on a stretcher and taken to hospital for checks.

    It was discovered he suffered a fracture to his skull and underwent an operation that night.

    Wolves released a statement on Monday confirming the procedure had taken place and that he was "comfortable" following the surgery – they were hesitant to outline a recovery period.

    Jimenez has, understandably, also stopped short of setting a target as he provided a first personal update on social media.

    He wrote: "Thanks for your support messages. I will be under observation and I hope to return to the pitch soon."

    Mexico international Jimenez has been an integral part of Wolves' team since joining from Benfica, initially on loan, in 2018.

    He has scored 34 times in 86 Premier League appearances, while he also impressed on the European stage last term with 10 in 15 Europa League outings as Wolves reached the quarter-finals.

  • Conte's rotten win rate, Mane in need of a goal – Champions League in Opta numbers Conte's rotten win rate, Mane in need of a goal – Champions League in Opta numbers

    Matchday five of the Champions League could mean qualification for the last 16 for some - and spell trouble for others.

    Bayern Munich and Manchester City are already through, but their respective opponents, Atletico Madrid and Porto, could do with positive results.

    Real Madrid recorded a valuable win at Inter last time out but must do better against Shakhtar Donetsk than they did on matchday one, while the Nerazzurri themselves know nothing but a victory at Borussia Monchengladbach will do.

    Liverpool need just a point at home to Ajax to progress, but with injury problems mounting and a 2-0 home loss to Atalanta last week, their progress no longer looks to be such plain sailing.

    Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid: Zidane's men aim to qualify against goal-shy opponents

    Shakhtar's 3-2 win at Madrid was a serious shock, one that became more apparent as they lost their latest two games by four or more goals without scoring. Only Malmo and Red Star Belgrade have ever done so in three consecutive matches.

    Indeed, Shakhtar have failed to score with each of their 23 shots since netting their third in the Spanish capital.

    Madrid know a victory will guarantee their place in the knockouts for the 24th season in a row, a competition record. Their form might be inconsistent, but they have lost only one of their previous seven away games against Ukrainian opponents – a 2-0 defeat to Dynamo Kiev – since March 1999.

     

    Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich: Holders could match club record – but without Lewandowski

    Bayern Munich will match a club-record seven away wins in a row in the Champions League with victory at Atletico Madrid. They have won their previous six by an aggregate score of 27-7.

    Diego Simeone has lost three of his five meetings with Bayern in this competition, but Atleti have only been beaten once at home in Europe in their previous 24 games.

    Robert Lewandowski needs just one goal to surpass Raul in the all-time goalscoring list in the tournament, having reached 71 against Salzburg. However, with the striker missing this contest, Atleti may fancy their chances of beating Bayern at home for the third time in a row.

    Borussia Monchengladbach v Inter: Can Conte fix his Champions League woes?

    Since losing the first meeting in 1971, Borussia Monchengladbach have gone four games unbeaten against Inter.

    This season marks the first occasion Inter have ever failed to win any of their opening four Champions League matches, and they are at risk of losing three in a row in the group stage for the first time.

    Indeed, Antonio Conte has won only 20 per cent of his Champions League games in charge of the Nerazzurri, the lowest ratio of any of his predecessors over at least five games in the competition. Fail to win in Germany, and Inter are out.

     

    Porto v Manchester City: Imperious defence meets clinical attack

    Porto have lost three games in a row against Manchester City 9-2 on aggregate and are winless in five previous meetings with English opponents.

    Pep Guardiola's side have already kept three clean sheets this term, one more than they managed in nine Champions League matches in 2019-20.

    Porto, however, have scored with 25.8 per cent of their shots this season, a tally only bettered by Gladbach (28.6 per cent).

    Liverpool v Ajax: Mane must find magic touch

    Ajax and Liverpool have not met at Anfield since 1966-67, when the Eredivisie side won the tie 7-3 on aggregate. That was the last occasion the Reds lost to a Dutch side (they have played 14 such games since).

    Ajax are unbeaten in 11 away games in the Champions League, their best run since March 1997, and they have not lost in their latest five visits to England in this competition.

    Liverpool, who need a point to progress, could do with Sadio Mane finding form. The forward has scored only once at home in his previous 10 appearances in this tournament, going 426 minutes without finding the net in that run.

     

    Other fixtures:

    Lokomotiv Moscow v Salzburg

    20 – Of the 20 shots attempted between these sides in their matchday-one meeting – which ended in a 2-2 draw - 15 of them were by Salzburg. Indeed, Lokomotiv Moscow scored twice from just three shots on target in the game.

    50 – Since the start of last season, Salzburg's 10 games in the Champions League group stages have seen 50 goals scored (23 for, 27 against), the most of any club. Salzburg have won just two of those 10 games (D2 L6).

     

    Atalanta v Midtjylland

    3 – Midtjylland have lost all three of their previous games against Italian opponents in European competition, conceding 13 goals and scoring just one in reply.

    1 – Atalanta have only failed to score in one of their last 12 games in the Champions League (25 goals in total), although this did come in their most recent home game in the competition, losing by five goals to Liverpool.

     

    Marseille v Olympiacos

    13 – Marseille have lost their last 13 Champions League matches – a competition record – scoring just six goals and conceding 29.

    10 – The Ligue 1 side (six) and Olympiacos (eight) are the only two teams in the Champions League in 2020-21 yet to attempt at least 10 shots on target, with the Greek team managing just one across their previous two matches against Man City.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.