The 2017-18 Superliga recommences on Wednesday, when Independiente host Rosario Central in a fixture postponed from the eleventh round of fixtures due to Independiente’s involvement in the Copa Sudamericana final. So how have the clubs done in the transfer market and their pre-season friendlies? As I type this, I’m not much wiser about the answer than you are, so as much to get myself back up to speed as anything else, here’s a roundup. I’ll take the Big Five first, and then the rest of the Superliga, and will deal with each of those two groups in alphabetical order. My main source for catching up on transfers is this page on Olé. Rather than type out all the transfers again, I’ll let you look over it, and give some brief thoughts on each team below.
The Big Five
Boca Juniors (we’re taking them alphabetically, before anyone gets all het up)
The champions and league leaders lost Darío Benedetto and Walter Bou to injury in the last couple of games of 2017, but have replaced them at least adequately: Ramón Ábila arrives from Huracán (he’d actually been there on loan since the start of the season, and was always scheduled to join Boca at this stage) and Carlos Tevez has come in on a free transfer after leaving Shanghai Shenhua. In spite of this, Olé still reckon they want another forward, as well as a centre back. The continuity in the club of the Colombian trio of Edwin Cardona, Wilmar Barrios and Frank Fabra is in doubt, after the former two were accused of assaulting a couple of women in a nightclub. Friendlies didn’t go amazingly: a 2-2 draw with Defensa y Justicia (who then won 4-2 on penalties because Argentine pre-season friendlies often need to have a winner) was followed by a 1-0 defeat on Sunday night to bitter rivals River Plate.
Independiente have bid farewell to Ezequiel Barco, who’s joined Atlanta United in an MLS record transfer (I wrote about him here for the MLS site, and here for ESPNFC). Nicolás Tagliafico has also left, for Ajax in the Netherlands. After manager Ariel Holan initially resigned over an argument with the club’s barra brava, he was persuaded back, but the incomings don’t look spectacular. A number of forwards, including Silvio Romero of América de México and Alejandro Silva of Lanús, are on the radar. Friendlies included draws against Gimnasia La Plata (0-0) and Racing (2-2, followed by a penalty shootout win).
Racing welcome Eduardo Coudet as manager. The most eye-catching signing has been Ricky Centurión, returning to the club he started out at. They’d like to bring in Sergio Romero from Manchester United (he’s been told by Jorge Sampaoli he could lose his place in goal for Argentina if he’s not playing regularly at club level), but that deal looks unlikely to happen. Outgoings look for the most part like a clearing out of dead wood in the squad. Friendlies included the above-mentioned draw and penalty defeat to Independiente.
River Plate have got the two most important signings they needed – a goalkeeper and a centre forward – by bringing in Franco Armani from Colombian giants Atlético Nacional for the former position, and signing Lucas Pratto from São Paulo for a club record US$11m. The amount of time those deals took to thrash out, though, seems to have got in the way of both training time and other signings. Colombian international midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero is expected to sign this week, and Camilo Mayada’s and Lucas Martínez Quarta’s returns from doping suspensions will be a huge boost to the defence and midfield. At least one more signing, probably an attacking midfielder, is still needed, though. Friendlies included a 2-1 win over Independiente Santa Fe, and Sunday’s 1-0 win over Boca.
San Lorenzo have confirmed Claudio Biaggio as manager until the end of the season, after an impressive first half of the season. Transfer business looks like it’s being done at the last minute if at all, with only Gabriel Esparza returning from loan so far in the incoming column. Friendly results included a 3-1 win over Defensa y Justicia, a 2-1 win over Argentinos Juniors, and a 1-1 draw followed by a penalty shootout win over Gimnasia.
Argentinos Juniors have made one of the most impressive signings of the window by bringing back their youth team product and former Paraguay international and Borussia Dortmund (among others) star Lucas Barrios to lead the line. Otherwise, the squad looks pretty stable. Friendlies included a 1-1 draw with Flandria and a 7-2 win over Comunicaciones, as well as a 2-1 defeat to San Lorenzo.
Arsenal de Sarandí have signed Sergio Rondina as manager, and brought in Fernando Quintana on a free transfer from Estudiantes. Olé say the new manager’s transfer demands haven’t been made known yet (leaving it late, isn’t he?), but in truth it must be hard for Rondina to decide where to start, given how bad Arsenal are. They’ve let a fair few players go. Pre-season has seen 1-1 draws with Estudiantes and Brown de Adrogué, and a 0-0 with Atlético Tucumán.
Atlético Tucumán‘s signing of goalkeeper Augusto Batalla from River Plate looks like a good deal for all concerned. River offload a player who was unhappy at being benched but not at the level the team want to operate at, Atlético get a promising young goalie with plenty to learn, and Batalla should get more playing time and hopefully improve with it. They’ve played Talleres twice in about a week in friendlies, getting a 1-0 win and a 0-0 draw followed by a penalty shootout victory.
Banfield have strengthened their defence so far. They’re looking for a centre forward to complete the job – they need to sharpen up at both ends to get back to last season’s level – and Ariel Nahuelpán could be that man, if Barcelona of Ecuador can be persuaded to let him go. Their highest-profile friendly brought a 1-0 defeat to Huracán and a 1-1 draw, followed by a shootout defeat, against Newell’s.
Belgrano have brought in Mauro Guevgeozián from Newell’s Old Boys. He looked sharp in some matches for Newell’s last year, but seemed to struggle to settle and also looked off the pace at times. His new club will be hoping they can get more out of him. Last week in a friendly with city rivals Talleres they drew 1-1. Surprisingly, there were no penalties afterwards.
Chacarita Juniors have appointed a new manager, Sebastián Pena, after Walter Coyette parted company with the club eleven games in (harsh on Luis Marabotto, whose only match in charge as caretaker was a 3-0 win over Copa Libertadores finalists Lanús!). Federico Vismara didn’t play much for Racing but might find his level here. Chaca also want basically half a new starting lineup, including a centre forward, a playmaker, a winger and a goalkeeper. They’ve only played one 90-minute game in pre-season; a 2-0 defeat to Estudiantes.
Colón haven’t signed anyone, though for some reason Olé have marked confirmation that Eduardo Domínguez will continue as manager as a signing. Javier Correa could join from Godoy Cruz, and would be an interesting incorporation because they’ve lacked some bite in attack so far this season. A couple of days ago, Colón lost 1-0 to Racing de Montevideo in a friendly.
Defensa y Justicia‘s signings have been typically interesting: right back Nahuel Molina arrives on loan from Boca Juniors, and Fernando Elizari comes in from San Lorenzo. Defensa have previously done a good job with putting together other sides’ cast-offs and fashioning an attractive, enterprising team. They’ll need to hope that proves true in goal right away, because Gabriel Arias has been one of the best custodians in Argentina in recent seasons, and his replacement, Nicolás Avellaneda (no, not that one) hasn’t had a lot of playing time at Lanús. Friendlies brought defeats, 1-0 to San Martín de San Juan and 3-1 to San Lorenzo.
Estudiantes‘ transfer window looks uninspiring, by and large. Gastón Giménez should add something in midfield, but apart from that there’s nothing to shout about here. In friendlies, they’ve drawn 1-1 with Arsenal, and got wins against All Boys (3-0) and Chacarita Juniors (2-0).
Gimnasia have named former Fulham striker Facundo Sava as their new manager – his first managerial post since he left Tigre in the middle of last year. By and large, he wants to work with the same squad that played in the first half of the year. Gimnasia’s highest-profile friendly was a 0-0 draw with Independiente, followed by a penalty shootout win.
Godoy Cruz have named Diego Dabove, a former goalkeeper who was a lower league journeyman and was forced into retirement in 2000 at the age of just 27 by a shoulder injury, as their new manager. He’s had spells as assistant or goalkeeping coach under some big name managers and at some big clubs in Argentina, and most recently managed Godoy Cruz’s reserve side throughout 2017, so this is an appointment from within. There was only one friendly anyone really paid attention to, but it was promising: a 3-2 win over Boca Juniors.
Huracán look like more of the same unpredictability for 2018. Ricardo Noir is the man with the unenviable task of trying to replace Boca-bound Ramón Ábila at centre forward. They apparently want a couple of other forwards and a creative midfielder as well, if Hugo Nervo goes, as a defender. They’re trying to tempt quite a number of players their way. They’ve managed three wins from three friendlies: 2-0 over San Lorenzo, 1-0 over Banfield and 2-0 over Almirante Brown.
Lanús have some rebuilding to do after the Copa Libertadores runners-up were dismantled once former manager Jorge Almirón took charge of Atlético Nacional and started bringing his former charges over with him. Diego Braghieri and goalkeeper Fernando Monetti have both gone in that direction, and José Sand has also left the club, so the pressure is on for new boss Ezequiel Carboni. Friendlies brought a 0-0 draw with Villa Dálmine and a 1-0 win over Vélez Sarsfield.
Newell’s Old Boys have been quite but efficient so far in the window, but are effectively still looking for a new forward line; they want a number 9 and two wide men, and we have to assume Lionel Messi probably can’t be tempted back just yet. That’s a worry, because they were very hit and miss in front of goal during the first half of the season. Friendlies included a 1-1 draw with Banfield (followed by a penalty shootout win) and a 2-2 draw with Atlético de Rafaela.
Olimpo are not very good, and nothing really stands out here beyond Christian Bassedas’ appointment as manager after Rubén Forestello decided to drop down a division to go to San Martín de Tucumán in the B Nacional after Olimpo’s previous board lost their positions in the club elections in December. They recently drew 0-0 with Aldosivi in a behind-closed-doors friendly in Mar Del Plata.
Patronato have made a couple of free signings, including Gastón Gil Romero from Estudiantes, who could be one to watch for them. They still want a wide midfielder and a playmaker. A 2-1 defeat to Colón is the only 90-minute friendly result I’ve found for them this month.
Rosario Central have landed potentially one of the signings of the summer in Néstor Ortigoza. He’s not getting any younger but should add quality to a midfield that’s looked a little flat so far this season. It’s a pity, then, that he’s picked up an injury, though it shouldn’t keep him out much beyond this coming weekend. Their only major friendly was a 1-1 draw with Lanús, followed by a shootout victory.
San Martín are after a striker and a left back. Former Boca Juniors and Vélez Sarsfield target man Santiago Salcedo could be one of those signings, but nothing’s finalised yet. In friendlies, they’ve beaten Defensa y Justicia 1-0, and not a lot else seems to have happened.
Talleres have signed someone called Samuel! I like this, obviously. I’ve never heard of the young Venezuelan forward before, but I hope he does well. Sebastián Palacios’ loss is a big one, but Emanuel Reynoso’s, which could be finalised in the next couple of days (Boca, Independiente and an unnamed side from the United Arab Emirates have all reportedly tabled bids), would be even bigger. They want a couple of forwards to cover those losses. They lost a friendly 1-0 to Atlético Tucumán a week and a half ago.
Temperley welcome Fernando Brandán back after an uninspiring 18-month period at Melbourne City. In a friendly, they beat Racing 1-0.
Tigre have gone signing crazy under new manager Cristian Ledesma; some drastic action was certainly needed given they’ve won just one of their first twelve matches. One of those signings, Walter Montillo, suffered a serious knee injury in a training game against Deportivo Morón, and might retire. Montillo, 33, had signed a six-month deal in an attempt to get back into football after an injury-ravaged spell at Brazilian side Botafogo.
Unión are having a good season, and seem to have decided that since nothing’s broken, they’re not going to try and fix anything. They beat Defensa y Justicia 1-0 in a friendly last week.
Vélez Sarsfield have made a lot of signings, most notably Gabriel Heinze as manager. The former international has tried to get his sides playing attacking football in previous managerial spells (most successfully last season at Argentinos Juniors, with whom he won promotion and the B Nacional title in some style) and the signings who’ve come in certainly point in that direction. They’ve stuck more to training matches than to proper friendlies over the summer.