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Forget Messi and Ronaldo: Piatek leads top leagues in goals

FC United
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 By Tim Vickery

Are Gio Simeone's U-20 heroics a false dawn or is Diego's son the real deal?

Giovanni Simeone celebrates scoring one of his nine goals in the South American Under-20 Championships.

If you were to cut open Diego Simeone, he will almost certainly bleed blue and white. The Atletico Madrid boss won 106 caps for Argentina, where coach after coach made him one of the first names on the team sheet. Now his son has made a promising start to his own international career.

With nine goals, Giovanni Simeone was by some distance the top scorer in the South American Under-20 Championships, which came to a conclusion in Uruguay on Saturday. At one point, the competition record (11 goals by Colombia's Hugo Rodallega in 2005) appeared to be under threat.

But that in itself flashes a warning sign. Ten years on and theoretically in his prime, Rodallega is in the second tier of English football with Fulham. His career has been solid enough, but he has never come close to fulfilling the promise that he seemed to possess in that golden month back in 2005.

At the opposite end of the dial, Argentina had a disastrous tournament on home ground in the previous iteration of the competition in 2013, failing to even make the second round. Among the flops was Luciano Vietto, now enjoying a fine season with Villarreal and likely to move on to bigger things. Success in the South American Under-20 Championships, then, is not the be all and end all. It has launched many successful careers, but it has also given rise to a few false dawns.

In the case of Simeone Junior, it is right and proper that a few question marks remain. He did enjoy a fine tournament, revealing himself as a thoroughly competent finisher, drilling his shots with either foot with minimum fuss. But it is also true that the winds were blowing in his favour. First he was playing in front of the best player on show in Uruguay, support striker Angel Correa, who undressed rival defences with the versatility of his talent. Left-footed attacking midfielder Tomas Martinez also did well, and Cristian Espinoza looks a real promise on the right wing. There were, then, quality teammates making the bullets for Simeone to fire.

Also, he clearly benefited from the fact that Argentina were in by far the softer of the two groups. There were some relatively easy pickings to be had against Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay. Good teammates and weak opponents; it meant that the centre-forward had plenty of opportunities to shoot at goal and get his confidence soaring. It may be significant that none of his goals came against the three best other teams in the tournament: Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil, who qualified behind Argentina for the Under-20 World Cup, taking place this June in New Zealand. At a higher level of the game, against better defenders, does Giovanni Simeone really have enough talent to make his mark?

It is a question that will start to be posed during a season that is just about to get underway. The Argentine league kicks off at the weekend, with the Copa Libertadores commencing the following Tuesday. With River Plate fighting on both fronts, there should surely be some first-team chances for young Simeone over the following months.

River usually play a diamond formation in midfield -- a system that can suffer from a lack of width. One way around this is for the strikers to be thrown wide. This does not make their task an easy one; the front pair can often be a long way apart from each other.

The star man, the Colombian Teofilo Gutierrez, thrives in such a role. He has the movement and skill, the pace and strength, to be able to shine. But a young striker without some of these attributes can find himself isolated and easily picked off by the opposing defenders.

It will be fascinating, then, to see whether Giovanni Simeone can cope now that the bar is being raised. In retrospect, will his under-20 achievements be the launching pad for a career as brilliant as that of his father, or a wonderful month in the Uruguayan summer that was never repeated?

Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.

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