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Teams: Chile, USA, R Plate, CC, The "U" and Bucs
Feature: Ten South American Players To Watch In 2009
10- Luis Bolaños (LDU Quito & Ecuador)
Bolaños has emerged as one of the most exciting Ecuadorian attackers in decades. He was instrumental as Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito lifted the Copa Libertadores for the first time, and although the club were losing finalists of the FIFA Club World Cup, Luis Bolaños found the back of the net with a terrific free-kick against Pachuca in the semi-finals. The speedy winger is expected to move to Europe in the near future, with Spain a likely destination.
9- Miranda (São Paulo & Brazil)
Miranda consolidated himself as one of the best centre backs in Brazil last season, when he put on a number of solid displays, as São Paulo claimed a record third successive Campeonato Brasileiro. The tall 24-year-old was loaned out to the Brazilian giants from French side Sochaux, and his outstanding form hasn't gone unnoticed, as several top European clubs, including AC Milan have shown great interest in his purchase. A bright future with the Seleção surely awaits him.
8- Claudio Morel Rodríguez (Boca Juniors & Paraguay)
The Paraguayan Player of the Year experienced wide success in 2008. Not only did he help Boca Juniors win the Apertura Championship, but he was a key member of the Paraguayan national team that lead the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Morel is a class act, the 30-year-old defender has only ever played for two clubs before, and his consistency and fighting spirit has earned his praise around the entire continent. According to recent reports he has received lucrative offers from Italy, Spain, Greece and Mexico.
7- Douglas Costa (Grêmio)
At the tender age of 18, the Grêmio attacking midfielder is destined for superstar status when he eventually moves to Europe. He is an exciting left-footed player, and his tremendous talent has led to comparisons with AC midfielder Ronaldinho, who also shone with Grêmio before moving abroad. Grêmio are hoping to keep the player to contest the 2009 Copa Libertadores, but as several high-profile clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United are willing to pay big money for his services, that may not happen.
6- Alex (Internacional & Brazil)
Alex played a key role as Internacional claimed the Copa Sudamericana for the very first time, scoring some decisive goals along the way. Arguably one of the most exciting attacking midfielders in the Campeonato Brasileiro, much is expected of Alex when he makes his highly anticipated move to one of Europe's top clubs. In October he made his Brazilian national team debut, and at 26 he is in a perfect age to fight for a first team place. Perhaps his greatest quality is his long-range shooting accuracy.
5- Pablo Barrientos (San Lorenzo)
The attacking midfielder was the main reason why San Lorenzo came so close to winning the Argentine championship last season. He was by far the club's most influential player, particularly towards the end of the season, and he received rave reviews from the local press, to the extent that Diego Maradona has affirmed that he could well be a key player of the Argentine national team in the future. Having gained valuable experience during two seasons at FC Moscow, Barrientos finally reached his full potential at San Lorenzo, and a move to one of Europe's top clubs is a big possibility.
4- Lucas Viatri (Boca Juniors)
Since becoming a first team regular at Boca Juniors last season, Viatri has proved to be one of the deadliest finishers in South America, and an extremely bright prospect for the future. He is a player who rises to the big occasion, and he demonstrated this by scoring vital goals last season, including the winner as Boca edged arch-rivals River Plate 1-0 in the Argentine Superclásico. Viatri finished as Boca's top scorer last season, and at only 21 much is expected of him in the following years. Without doubt his greatest quality is his incredible heading ability.
3- Sebastián Battaglia (Boca Juniors & Argentina)
Last season Battaglia experienced the most successful year in his entire career at a personal level. The 28-year-old was in extraordinary form as Boca Juniors clinched the Apertura Championship, playing at a consistently high level, and being detrimental in Boca's title triumph. Battaglia, who returned to Boca in 2005 after a short stint with Villarreal, is arguably one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, and he is set to return to Europe this year. It has been reported that AC Milan and Manchester United are after his signature.
2- Radamel Falcao García (River Plate and Colombia)
The Colombian international is arguably the most sought after striker in South America at the moment. He played a key role as River Plate won the Clausura Championship, and although River finished in bottom place of the following Apertura Championship, he was their only standout performer. His outstanding performances haven't gone unnoticed, as he has attracted envious glances from the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, and AC Milan. When Falcao moves to Europe he is destined for superstar status.
1- Hernanes (São Paulo and Brazil)
Having played a crucial role as São Paulo clinched a record third successive Campeonato Brasileiro, a bright future surely awaits Hernanes in Europe, whether he finally accepts to join Spanish giants Barcelona or not. Hernanes is pure class, and his incredible ability is likely to earn him a permanent place in the Brazilian national team in the near future. The "Craque" of the Brazilian championship is perhaps the greatest talent to have emerged in 2008.
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