Matias Arezo: The new Suarez? Meet Uruguay's teenage goal machine

Matias Arezo NxGn
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The 18-year-old striker is already a veteran of 50 first-team matches, with his club having slapped a €20 million price-tag on him

Although 2021 has only recently begun, River Plate wonderkid Matias Arezo has already hinted that he plans to pick up exactly where he left off in 2020.

The teenage forward needed just 35 minutes of River's opening match of the new year to open his tally in the Clausura, running on to a loose ball in the Fenix area and looping his shot over the head of goalkeeper Felix Casanova to equalise at 1-1.

That goal marked his 18th professional strike, an impressive tally for a youngster who has just 50 first-team games under his belt.

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Arezo, who turned 18 at the end of November, came to prominence at the end of last year with a string of dazzling displays both in Uruguay's Primera Division and the Copa Sudamericana, including a two-goal haul in the latter to see off Colombia's Atletico Nacional in the second round.

River's Sudamericana campaign ended in unfortunate fashion, losing on away goals to Universidad Catolica in the last 16. But Arezo's reputation, further bolstered by an eight-goal haul in the Uruguayan Apertura, has only grown since then, and he is now comfortably established as one of the top teenage talents in the nation.

Nicknamed the 'Buffalo' in relation to his strapping physique and powerful, direct running, Arezo was born in Montevideo in 2002, the second of four children in a football-mad family – one of his younger brothers is named Beckham, another Iker in honour of the ex-Real Madrid and Spain legend.

At the age of three, like so many future Uruguay stars, he began his apprenticeship in five-a-side 'baby futbol', although his first experience of the game was not entirely positive.

“When I started playing I felt like going in goal but I conceded something like five goals,” he recalled to ESPN. “I said, no, never again am I going here.”

Arezo took off the gloves and moved into midfield, eventually making the jump to the forward line after switching to River in his early teens.

“A coach told me, 'get up here, you'll be top scorer', and that year I scored around 40 goals and stayed there; I liked to attack but not defend.”

From there his progress in the River ranks was swift. At just 15, the forward was picked for the first-team bench as an unused substitute, and the following year coach Jorge Fossatti, a former Uruguay international player and Celeste boss, gave him his debut against Progreso.

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Since that moment he has been an undisputed part of the Darsenero first team, continuing to net goals on a regular basis despite the disruption and upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He has also made a big impression for his nation, whom he has represented at both Under-15 and U17 levels; Arezo was the Celeste's top scorer in both the 2017 U15s South American Championship and 2019 U17s competition, netting five times in each tournament.

Indeed, if it were not for an ill-timed injury he may well have earned a call-up for the senior Uruguay squad back in November after Luis Suarez was ruled out due to a positive coronavirus test.

Matias Arezo Uruguay 2019

Suarez, of course, has been the poster boy of Uruguayan football over the past decade, with his performances alongside those of Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan having alerted Europe's top clubs to the attacking talent that Uruguay is producing.

As such, River know that sooner rather than later a bigger club will swoop for Arezo's signature; but they are determined to make any potential suitor pay for the privilege.

“The price we have set for Matias Arezo is €20 million (£18m/$24m),” club president Willie Tucci warned reporters at the end of 2020. “We've been offered several million dollars, but we said no.”

Arezo, who still lives at home with his family in Montevideo's Nuevo Paris neighbourhood and idolises his father - “He's my role model. He works in construction and always gave us everything,” he confided to Ovacion, - admits such figures are hard to fathom.

“I don't know if I liked [the comment] much that way,” he told River's official website. “Obviously if you think about it, they're talking about millions as if they were thousands. You're young, you don't understand what it means.

Matias Arezo NxGn GFX

"I just try to take it in my stride, obviously if I get to make the leap I've already said I'll leave River with the best deal, they're the club that has given me everything.”

Arezo's next destination is still up in the air. Local heavyweights Nacional and Penarol have both been closely linked to a move, although that seems unlikely if Tucci continues to enforce that astronomical price tag.

Further afield Benfica and Sevilla are reported admirers, the former considering Arezo as a potential replacement for compatriot Darwin Nunez in the event of a sale as he continues to be linked with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

Barely past his 18th birthday, though, 'El Bufalo' has time on his side.

River will hope to challenge the likes of Nacional and Penarol in the Clausura; and more goals from their brightest gem will not only bolster their campaign, but also ensure their strapping prodigy picks up more and more admirers with every game that passes.

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