Alejandro Garnacho’s pass notes: the Argentine grew up idolizing Ronaldo but is now learning from Messi
Alejandro Garnacho’s name may have gone unnoticed among the 39 other names that have been called up for Argentina’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Ecuador, but his call was arguably among the more revealing.
The 17-year-old has yet to play a single minute for Manchester United’s first team but his call up to the senior Argentina side shows how he caught Lionel Scaloni’s attention even at youth level.
The Madrid-born striker’s call – which came about because his mother was born in Argentina – saw him join the most iconic name in this 40-man provisional squad announced earlier this month to Lionel Messi.
Manchester United academy product Alejandro Garnacho is yet to feature for the first team
He was called up to Argentina’s senior squad for their World Cup qualifiers, however
The United youngster was clearly smitten by the star, sharing an image with Messi on Wednesday night on Instagram, calling the striker his ‘idol’ in the post. And if that didn’t get people talking, Garnacho is sure his mainstream appeal did.
‘This [call-up] will be talked about but I’m still young and it’s the start of my career and I’m just focusing on football and improving,’ he told United’s official website.
The Red Devils rebuffed interest from Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund to sign Garnacho from Atletico Madrid in 2020 and he continued to play at U18, U19 and U23 levels on the left side of the attack.
This season, however, has seen him rise to another level, helping the U18s reach the club’s first FA Youth Cup final – which they will play against Chelsea or Nottingham Forest next month – since their 2011 win over Sheffield. United.
He posted a photo with Lionel Messi (right) and chose the PSG star’s brain
The 17-year-old has been quite prolific in the competition, scoring five times in four games to go with three assists in his run to the final, which included wins over Scunthrope, Reading, Everton, Leicester and Wolves.
This season, across all competitions – which include Premier League 2, UEFA Youth League and Premier League U18 – he has scored 11 goals combined with six assists in 28 games.
And it was in a brilliant solo goal against Toffees U18 shown on MUTV where he paid tribute to his idol, Man United and Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo.
Garnacho collected the ball deep in United’s half before launching into a 60-yard run, before embarking on a foot run with the defender and, realizing his route to goal was blocked, he came in instead to curl the ball into the far corner.
He then celebrated by copying Ronaldo’s ‘Siu’ celebration, which he also retired after finding an 89th-minute winner in the quarter-final win over Leicester.
Everton’s solo goal wasn’t the only standout play he conjured up in the tournament, after scoring with a bicycle kick past the Stretford End against Scunthorpe.
So it’s perhaps no surprise that the Spanish media have described him as ‘the crown jewel’ of Atletico’s academy.
He is technically gifted and has superb ball control, which makes him a nightmare to defend when running on the opposing backlines.
In front of goal he is equally lethal and plays on instinct in and around the box. So much so that, while playing for Atletico’s Infantil B, he became Spain’s top scorer in 2016 as he tore through youth league defences.
But his idol is Cristiano Ronaldo whose celebration he copied after scoring this season
Garnacho is mostly right-handed but is comfortable on his left, which allows him that one-on-one versatility with the goalkeeper.
While he’s able to use his quick feet to beat defenders and goalkeepers with ease, the teenager also has a knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time, always eager to pick up the crumbs in front of goal.
It’s that kind of ability that made him one of seven unselected players in Argentina’s latest preliminary squad, the majority of whom have dual nationality but who the South American giants hope can convince to choose to play for them. .
Garnacho is of course one such player, eligible to represent Spain after being born in the country’s capital and representing La Roja at U18 level.
“I was born in Madrid, but my mother and her family are Argentinian. It will be an honor to represent Argentina, just as it was back then to play for Spain,” said Garnacho.
He scored five times in four games in Man United’s run to the FA Youth Cup final
The Albiceleste have already qualified for the World Cup in Qatar this winter, allowing Scaloni to use the upcoming qualifiers as an opportunity to give young faces a taste of life as a senior Argentina international.
But Scaloni was keen to stress that neither youngster would be forced to represent Argentina just because he was called up, while insisting he had impressed the coaching staff.
“These children, no matter how much they play with the Argentina national team shirt tomorrow, they are not blocked from playing with Argentina,” Scaloni said via Mundo Albiceleste.
“We want these kids to come, train with the Argentina U20 team, with the senior team, to see what the atmosphere is like with the Argentina national team, the training ground in Ezeiza , and, at the next call, they will have the opportunity to decide.
Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni insists the youngsters have impressed the coaching staff
“These are kids who are good, who can make the leap in quality, and we can call them, nothing else,” Scaloni added.
“Given the conditions they have, we can’t look away and we have to take advantage of the fact that they can play for our national team.” We are very happy with the way they have been.
But having already spoken with former Argentine stars – including one who played for Liverpool and Barcelona – it looks like Garnacho is intent on becoming a regular for the Argentine for now.
“Outside the club, I’m very grateful to Javier Mascherano, the Argentina Under-20 coach,” Garnacho said this week.
Garnacho also paid tribute to former Liverpool and Barcelona star Javier Mascherano
“Ever since they first showed interest in me two or three months ago, he has always given me special attention, watching over me and being attentive and thoughtful.”
With a bit of luck and hard work, Garnacho will now hope he can attract the interest of Ralf Rangnick and the next Man United boss to follow Anthony Elanga to become a first-team regular.
The opportunities could be there as early as next season with the futures of Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial all uncertain.
But a successful international break – starting against Venezuela on Friday night – could even accelerate progress that could result in his first minute as a senior United player.
Garnacho could push for the first team next season with aging Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani