Julian Alvarez: City's latest Argentine
Our new forward is the latest player to swap Buenos Aires for Manchester...
When Julian Alvarez made his Manchester City debut, he became the eighth Argentine to play competitive football for the Club’s first team.
Since the arrival of Pablo Zabaleta in 2008, City’s connection with Argentina has been the strongest throughout the Premier League.
Six of the seven to wear the sky blue of City also played for their country, while Alvarez already has nine caps for La Albiceleste.
Manuel Pellegrini’s squad in 2015/16, his final season with City, included five men from South America’s third most populous nation, even spawning a chant from fans warning rival sides that ‘Our Argentinian blues are after you’.
On the face of it, there may not seem to be many similarities between Manchester and Buenos Aires – other than a love of football and a worship of all things blue and white.
However, due to Buenos Aires' history as a port city, it has long been popular for European migrants - largely from Italy, Spain and France. Residents of the city are now known as porteños (people of the port).
Given that European influence on one of the great metropolises of South America, perhaps it's no surprise that those who have experienced Buenos Aires have settled so well in the north.
Obviously, not every Argentine professional is born in the capital. Alvarez himself is a proud export of Calchín, in the province of Córdoba, and that's where he began his footballing journey.
However, it’s rare that the best and brightest don’t pass through at least one of Buenos Aires’ ‘Big Five’ of Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club, River Plate or San Lorenzo, usually before heading to Europe.
At each of these grounds, the support is intense. No matter what your previous credentials, it requires a special character not to be overawed by the sights and sounds of a full Estadio La Bombonera or Estadio Monumental, the homes of Boca and River.
While the Estadio Pedro Bidegain (San Lorenzo), Estadio Presidente Perón (Racing Club) and Estadio Libertadores de América (Independiente) produce atmospheres that are the envy of Europe's most sacred footballing cathedrals.
All of City’s Argentine contingent plied their trade with one of the capital's clubs at some point early in their career before trading that in for Europe and eventually Manchester.
Now our new signing, the 2021 South American Footballer of the Year, will look to add to this storied association between our Club and the capital city of the two-time World Cup winning nation.
Having shone for Atlético Calchín in his hometown, Alvarez moved to Buenos Aires and River Plate on the border of the leafy Núñez and Belgrano neighbourhoods in 2016.
He made his senior debut in 2018 and hasn't looked back, scoring 53 times and racking up 31 assists in 120 appearances, helping Los Millonarios to the 2021 Primera Division title.
Here we’ll take a look at each of the City players to have come from the land that gave the footballing world Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.
After rising through the ranks at San Lorenzo, one of the ‘Big Five’, and captaining his country to the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2005, Zabaleta spent three years in La Liga with Espanyol.
There he earned a reputation as a tough tackling full-back and forced his way into the national side. He was 23 when, having just won gold at the 2008 Olympics, he agreed a move to City.
He immediately endeared himself to the locals, stating he had turned down the advances of Juventus because he wanted ‘to come to England, and to Manchester’.
A bond with the Club’s fans was formed that is only reserved for adopted Mancunians of the highest order.
He played 333 times for City, winning the Premier League twice, League Cup twice and the FA Cup in a nine-year stint at the Etihad Stadium.
However, it is his determination and willingness to put his body on the line that is first raised when City fans discuss the right-back. He wasn't just a warrior of course, popping up with vital goals and assists including the first on that fateful day against QPR in 2012.
These days he remains closely connected to the Club, working recently as an ambassador in South America.
Raised in the Fuerte Apache neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Tevez came to the world’s attention as the three-time South American Footballer of the Year at Boca Juniors.
From there he went to Brazilian side Corinthians before West Ham United brought him to Europe. A two-year spell at Manchester United followed before he jumped across town to City in 2009.
In his four years at City he scored 58 goals in 113 appearances; first firing us into the Champions League, then captaining us to FA Cup success and eventually lifting the Premier League in 2012.
Even if he hadn't achieved all that at the Etihad Stadium, his transfer from our cross-city rivals while at the peak of his powers and the subsequent interest would have marked a key moment in the Club's growth.
His energetic and relentless approach to the game was often a driving factor in City’s biggest and most important victories under Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini.
It was that attitude and will to win that endeared him so much to City’s fans, and when he returned to the Club after a prolonged absence in 2011/12, gave the rest of City’s squad such a lift to go on and win the league.
As Vincent Kompany said: “Carlos was a special player, whenever he was with us we were better. He was one of the best players in the world at the time.”
Aguero became the youngest ever player to play in Argentina’s Primera Division when he made his debut for Independiente at 15 years and 35 days.
Three years there and five at Atletico Madrid meant he was a very experienced 23-year-old when he arrived at the Etihad Stadium in 2011.
The excitement around the ground on the day of Aguero’s debut was palpable and he lived up to expectations, scoring twice in a 4-0 rout of Swansea City.
No matter how excited that left City fans for what was to come – few could have anticipated that he would hit 260 goals in ten seasons and become the Club’s all-time record goalscorer.
Five Premier League titles, six League Cups, one FA Cup and three Community Shields also currently makes him the most decorated City player of all-time.
While a decade of relentless goal getting and trophy after trophy is never to be sniffed at, what truly creates a club legend is those moments of genius that live on in the memories of all who witness them.
Aguero was a master of those – namely that 93:20 goal in 2012 – and now he’s rightly celebrated with his own statue outside the Etihad Stadium.
After making his first steps into professional football with Alvarez’s previous Club River Plate, Demichelis’ first move to Europe took him to Bayern Munich in 2003.
11 titles and a Champions League final followed in the next seven seasons before a two-year spell at Malaga. That was Demichelis’ second spell with future City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who had been in charge at River Plate back in 2002/03.
After initially joining Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2013, the appointment of Pellegrini at City saw the centre-back move to the Etihad Stadium before the end of the same transfer window.
While it took him a while to adjust to the lightning pace of the Premier League, Demichelis was a Premier League champion at the end of his first year in Manchester.
He remained a key part of the City squad during Pellegrini’s reign, developing a cult status amongst City fans before he left in 2016 having played 106 times for the Club.
The goalkeeper was a team-mate of Tevez at Boca Juniors before a move to Spanish side Elche in 2004.
Seven years as undisputed number one on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula was ended when he moved to club Malaga – teaming up with Demichelis and Pellegrini for a famous Champions League run that ended at the quarter-final stage.
His move to City came in 2014, 12 months after Demichelis’. He started life as Joe Hart’s understudy – although he pushed the England goalkeeper to the point that he displaced him on occasion.
His crowning moment came in the 2015/16 Carabao Cup final when he saved penalties from Lucas Leiva, Phillipe Coutinho and Adam Lallana and was rightly lauded as the hero of the hour.
In 2017, with the arrival of Ederson, Caballero left the Club after 48 appearances.
The midfielder, who started life at Racing Club, joined City in 2014.
His only competitive appearance for the Club came as a second-half substitute in the 2014 Community Shield before a series of loans at Valencia, Middlesbrough and Hellas Verona amongst others.
Since 2018, Zuculini has been a key component of the River Plate side that has nurtured the talent of Alvarez while returning to their position in the upper echelons of South American football.
The only Argentine to play for City who didn’t start at a ‘Big Five’ club, Otamendi instead started his professional career at Velez Sarsfield.
Still a major club in Buenos Aires, Otamendi spent three years with Velez between 2007 and 2010 and made his debut for the Maradona coached Argentina national side before Porto became his first club in Europe.
He then joined Valencia in 2014 where he was named in the La Liga Team of the Year as Los Che qualified for the Champions League.
In 2015, he arrived at City and immediately slotted in alongside Vincent Kompany. As with Demichelis and many centre-backs before them, Otamendi had to adjust to the Premier League but when he did, he proved to be one of the best in the country.
Following 34 appearances in the 2017/18 Centurions season, the full-blooded and battle hardy defender was one of five City players named in the PFA Team of the Year.
After 210 games in a City shirt, Otamendi moved to Benfica in September 2020.