Last summer Argentine forward Luciano Vietto was virtually unheard of and little was known of his ability, but he immediately hit the ground running in his debut season at La Liga outfit Villarreal, consequently attracting the attention of several top European clubs including Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona. After much speculation surrounding his future, Villarreal president Fernando Roig announced: “we have closed the sale of Vietto. He’s been sold to Atltéico Madrid.”
Vietto left Argentina’s top flight last summer and signed a five-year deal at the Estadio El Madrigal for a reported €5.5m (£4.1m) fee.
This is Atlético’s first signing of the summer transfer window and a direct replacement for Juventus-bound Mario Mandzukic. He will be reunited with former coach Diego Simeone, who was the man to hand him his debut as a teenager for Racing Club.
After ending 2014 with six goals in as many games, including a superb brace against Deportivo La Coruna, he was soon on the radar of a handful of European clubs. He was honoured with the award of La Liga player of the month for December and in the same month Vietto capped a fine display during a league match at Atletico’s Vincente Calderon with a wonderful individual effort to secure a 1-0 win for Villarreal.
He ended the season with a very respectable 18 goals in all competitions, 12 of them coming in the league. Not only hugely impressive domestically, he shone on Europa League stage, finishing as the joint fifth-highest scorer in the competition.
The 21-year-old grew up in Cordoba, Argentina where he played for local side Independiente Balnearia until he left home at 15 to join Estudiantes.
His dreams of becoming a professional footballer were dealt a blow when the club released him at 17, only to find refuge in the youth set-up at Racing Club following a failed trial at Rosario Central. He had to wait until his second season to make his first senior appearance towards the end of 2011, as Diego Simeone gave him his first taste of first team football from the bench, just two months before his 18th birthday.
Vietto played under three different managers in a turbulent three seasons at the club, often struggling to find the back of the net during transitional periods.
In his final season for the club he only managed five goals in 35 appearances, but his potential was enough to earn him the move to Villarreal.
Vietto has been dubbed the ‘new Aguero,’ largely due to his intelligent movement off the ball, nimble footwork, ability to create space to fire a shot on goal, finding pockets of space from a deeper position and driving at defenders.
He usually operates as a second striker or in an attacking midfield role, although he’s quickly developing into a well-equipped centre-forward and will no doubt be utilised up top or on the flanks by Simeone. He has a workman-like attitude with a great tenacity to win the ball back and always seeks to bring teammates into play by spraying the ball around with consummate ease.
His general decisiveness is superb and rare for a young player, often knowing when to pass and where to use his trickery. Another technically gifted Argentinian forward.
For a player who was released as a teenager and struggled to find goals in his native Argentina, he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Torres, Aguero, Falcao and Costa and become a great striker at Atlético, all under the stewardship of Simeone.
After Mario Mandzukic’s switch to Juventus, Los Rojiblancos now have Antoine Griezmann, loanee Fernando Torres and now Vietto at their disposal in attack. Porto striker Jackson Martinez is being lined-up as Atletico’s next target, which would make a very formidable attack and a fascinating race for the La Liga title next season.
Guest blog by Steve Newell