Villarreal has of course historically done very well obtaining players from Argentina and Uruguay (Godin, Gonzalo, Martin Caceres, Marco Ruben, etc.) but for awhile it was looking as if Villarreal had turned its sights elsewhere, particularly given the disputes with River Plate and Velez Sarsfield over Mateo Musacchio's rights and Hector Canteros's transfer fee, respectively.
Villarreal appeared to be moving into Mexico (Javier Aquino, Jonathan Espericueta) and eastern Europe (Alic, Jokic) but it appears Luciano Vietto's signing this summer may have heralded a new era of interest in South American players, especially those from Argentina and Uruguay. They may not be as cheap as they once were, but it's hard for a young player from one of these countries to turn down the chance to move to a European side given the standard of their domestic leagues these days, and (in Argentina) the economic situation there.
Vietto's signing, which I feel we at Villarreal USA considered pretty important but flew under the radar of many folks, is now being seen as a masterstroke. After a few months of adaptation, the young striker is making his mark. He needs to cut the diving out of his game, for sure, but his understanding with our other attackers is continually improving and he is scoring goals (and with any luck would have three or four more by now--he has been mightily unlucky with posts).
An EPM article today says "Vietto is the new Rossi". Those are big shoes to fill, but in Beppe's first season (at age 20), he scored 13 times in 37 matches (11 league, 2 cup), so Vietto is actually ahead of him statistically, with 8 goals in 18 appearances (4 goals in La Liga, 4 in Europe). And, like Rossi, transfer rumors have begun to circulate around Vietto now that he's showing what he can do.
In addition to the "new Rossi", you may not know that Villarreal has a player some have described (sigh) as "the new Messi". That would be Ramiro Guerra, a 17 year-old player for Villarreal's C team. Son of a Spanish mother and Uruguayan father, he's just been called up to the Uruguayan under-20 team for a youth tournament in Montevideo in January (and is part of Villarreal's "under-21" team playing in England, as we reported earlier).
The other youngster, who passed his medical at Villarreal and is reportedly signing a five-year deal, is Leo Suárez. He's only 18, has been playing in the Boca Juniors system, and will also appear in this same youth tournament; in fact, Villarreal wanted to sew up his signing before that, because they are confident his value will increase (word is we are paying Boca €2m for his rights). He is going to remain in South America until after the tournament is over in early February, but will then join Villarreal B.
Antonio Cordón will be in Uruguay in January watching other young international talents, so we may see some other signings of young players from South America this spring. Endavant Submarino!