Uruguayan Primera División Young Players To Watch In 2024

Uruguayan Primera División Young Players To Watch In 2024

By Tom Robinson.

2023 was a year to remember for Uruguayan football. The arrival of Marcelo Bielsa breathed fresh air into the national team and a promising start to World Cup Qualifiers did nothing to dissuade the notion that they could be real contenders under ‘el Loco’.

At youth level things couldn’t have gone better either, with a first U20 World Cup win. Marcelo Broli’s botijas battled to the title by keeping clean sheets in 6 of their 7 games en route to a maiden title.

The future certainly looks bright and the vast majority of last year’s list made moves abroad, with Luciano Rodriguez inexplicably one of only two players to still be plying his trade in Uruguay. Following an excellent showing campaign for Uruguay U23s at the Preolímpico and strong interest from Feyenoord and Charlotte FC, it’ll be a surprise if he’s still here in six months.

So who are the next young prospects that could make a name for themselves in 2024? World Football Index picks out nine of the most interesting rising talents, under the age of 23, to keep an eye on this year.

Thiago Helguera (Nacional)

 Despite being just 17 years old, Helguera has already made quite the impression in a short space of time. The classy deep-lying midfielder uses the ball well, can carry it forward, covers plenty of ground and isn’t afraid to get stuck in – basically ticking all the boxes for the position.

His Libertadores performance against Boca Juniors, coming off the bench after 10 minutes due to an injury and excelling, spoke volumes of his maturity and innate talent. Selected for the Uruguay U23s for the Olympic qualifiers, we should see plenty more of Helguera this year.

Nacional notable mentions: Rodrigo Chagas, Mateo Antoni, Renzo Sanchez, Luciano Inverso, Rafael Haller

Anderson Duarte (Defensor Sporting)

The 19-year-old wide forward had a breakthrough season for Defensor Sporting last year, helping them to qualify for the Libertadores. Duarte bounced back from the disappointment of getting injured during the U20 Sudamericano to score 7 goals in 24 appearances for La Viola.

 Duarte also made a big impression at the U20 World Cup with 3 goals, including the winner in the semi-final against Israel, to finish as top scorer for the Uruguay team that won the title. With his pace, ability to find space in the box and good finishing off both feet, Duarte will continue to be a key reference point for Defensor this year.

Defensor Sporting notable mentions: Sebastian Guerrero, Augusto Cambon, Facundo Bernal

Franco Gonzalez (Peñarol)

 Another player to impress for the Uruguay side that won the U20 World Cup was pint-sized playmaker Franco Gonzalez. With his low centre of gravity, exceptional vision and intelligent movement between the lines, Gonzalez more than made up for his lack of stature in creativity.

His performances earned him a move from Danubio to giants Peñarol and he hit the ground running with 3 goals in 14 appearances. While his lack of height may be a barrier to a move to Europe, Gonzalez is a joy to watch and can be a difference-maker in South America at the very least.

Peñarol notable mentions: Randall Rodriguez, Damian Garcia, Ignacio Sosa

Manuel Monzeglio (Danubio)

Filling the hole left by Gonzalez is 22-year-old attacking midfielder Manuel Monzeglio, who joins la Franja on loan from Nacional. A tall graceful player with great technique, intelligence and reading of the game, it will be great to see what he can do when given the keys to the Danubio attack.

A goal on his debut – a controlled volley from a half-cleared corner – was a great introduction to life at the Jardines del Hipódromo and Danubio will hope to see Monzeglio chip in with plenty more goals and assists from his advanced role.

Danubo notable mentions: Mateo Peralta, Axel Montaña

Faustino Barone (River Plate)

River Plate have an excellent track record of developing young attacking talent, with Matias Arezo and Thiago Borbas two recent graduates. 17-year-old striker Faustino Barone could be the next one off the production line.

Barone was the top scorer in the 2022 U16 championship with 29 goals in 26 games and in the U15 championship the year before with 19 goals in as many games. The U17 international may struggle for regular game time with stiff competition up front at River but he notched 3 goals in 933 minutes of senior league football last year and will certainly hope to contribute again.

River Plate notable mentions: Juan Cruz De Los Santos, Joaquin Lavega, Thiago Galleto, Ihojan Perez, Agustin Vera, Santiago Diaz

Matias Ocampo (Liverpool)

Liverpool continued their excellent progress as a club by winning their first-ever Uruguayan championship in 2023, becoming the first club outside of the big two to win it since Danubio in 2013.

Luciano Rodriguez is clearly the star man but los Negriazules have a whole host of young prospects ready to step up. A brace on the first game of the season suggests that Matias Ocampo could be in for a big year after bouncing around a few clubs in recent years.

On loan from Swiss side Bellinzona, Ocampo is a skillful, goal-scoring midfielder who can operate off either flank and will be one to watch.

Liverpool notable mentions: Ignacio Rodriguez, Renzo Machado, Kevin Amaro

Dylan Nandin (Racing de Montevideo)

Another player who caught the eye in the same game on the opening day of the season was Racing striker Dylan Nandin. A free signing from Cerro, The 21-year-old helped himself to two opportunistic goals on his debut for the club and is already half-way to matching last season’s tally.

Marcelo Bielsa has reportedly already cast an eye over him as a possible future international and Nandin, a bit like Mouriño last year, has all the raw potential to be a true breakthrough this season. Watch this space.

Racing notable mentions: Lucas Monzon, Rodrigo Rey, Tomas Veron Lupi, Agustin Alaniz

Rodrigo Dudok (Defensor Sporting)

The youngest player on the list and the second player from Defensor Sporting’s fantastic academy is precocious wonderkid Rodrigo Dudok. The 16-year-old may not get too much first-team football this year but if any Uruguayan club were to throw him in at the deep end it would be Defensor, as highlighted by recent statistics from CIES.

Dudok was a surprise selection for the Uruguay U23s at the recent Preolímpico but unfortunately missed out due to injury. Typically a wide left forward, Dudok is a bag of tricks, thrives in one v one situations and, as the saying goes, ‘tiene gol’. It’s only a matter of time until he makes his senior club debut.

More Defensor Sporting notable mentions: Lucas Agazzi, Eric Cuello, Patricio Pacifico, Agustin Soria

Agustin Albarracin (Montevideo Wanderers)

The player to replace Dudok in the Uruguay U23 Preolimpico squad, Albaraccin is another extremely exciting young prospect who could be in for a big year.

The younger brother of Nicolas – currently playing in Peru for Carlos Mannucci – Albarracin is a versatile player, capable of playing on either wing, up front or as a central playmaker. The talented 18-year-old made 18 appearances last year, mainly as a substitute, and will be looking to nail down a regular starting role for Wanderers.

Wanderers notable mentions: Matias Fonseca, Kevin Rolon, Martin Suarez