National Team Peruvians Abroad

What do recent transfers tell us about state of Peruvian football?

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Firstly, I apologize for the lack of Peruvians abroad this week. I was struck by a powerful flu over the past week and was incapacitated for several days.

However, when I wasn’t high on Nyquil, I was keeping myself updated. Safe to say, it’s made for disappointing reading.

Christian Cueva wants to leave Krasnodar after just six months, despite being the club’s record signing last summer. He’s pushing for a move to Independiente, who tried to sign the Peruvian playmaker in the previous window.

Elsewhere, Renato Tapia left Feyenoord for Willem II on loan in search of more minutes before Copa América. Tapia started and delivered a decent performance in Willem’s 2-0 victory over NAC to boot. He controlled the midfield and led the team in tackles (4) on Sunday.

Tapia’s pass map vs. NAC. (via Wyscout)

But the latest transfer has really set off alarm bells. Cristian Benavente, who was on pace for a career-best season with Sporting Charleroi, joined Pyramids FC in Egypt. Less than a year after he was linked to the Bundesliga, el Chaval – who only just boosted his national team stock – is now heading to Africa.

Then there is André Carrillo heading to Saudi Arabia and Edison Flores leaving Europe. To his credit, that’s worked out for Flores. But it’s not ideal to see a regular starter on the national team returning to this side of the Atlantic.

Outside of Yoshimar Yotún’s transfer to Cruz Azul – and even that might have negative ramifications – there haven’t been many positive transfers since the World Cup.

After Benavente’s deal was made official, we received a few questions asking how this could happen.

It’s a fair query. Benavente is 24 years old, producing regularly in a decent European league and was back on Ricardo Gareca’s radar. That might change, especially given Gareca’s preferences for his players.

“We have always stated that we would like [our players] to improve their respective leagues … We believe that this is a moment in which we must all commit ourselves – the players, leaders, businessmen, any of those who represent Peruvian football – to understand that when it comes to improving ourselves, it is a commitment from all of us to represent Peru.”

Agent influence cannot be understated enough in these situations. Many representatives have connections to certain clubs, so they can earn more money via agent fees or other clauses if their client joins said team.

The players also benefit financially, which is usually a motivating factor for any player. Footballing careers are very short, so they need to cash in as quickly as possible. Otherwise, they are one devastating injury away from everything unravelling.

Having spoken to a couple of journalists in Egypt, there is a consensus that Benavente will be a short-term signing. Therefore, he could return to Europe within 12 months. But even if he guides Pyramids to a CAF Champions League title, Benavente’s stock will decrease in the eyes of European clubs just by virtue of where he’s playing.

But most concerning of all is the fact that there was very little interest in Benavente despite his brilliant campaign. He already matched his single-season best of nine goals and consistently dominated games. However, this only led to Anderlecht and Pyramids jumping into the race to sign the Peruvian playmaker.

On the other hand, waiting until the summer might’ve led to more concrete interest. It happened for André Carrillo when Marco Silva made a strong push to sign him at Everton. In the end, he chose Al-Hilal.

Tapia’s situation is unfortunate because injuries and a lack of regular minutes in Feyenoord’s midfield have led to this situation. Flores might eventually return to Europe, as could Carrillo once his loan ends. There’s also a chance Cueva sticks around in Europe until the summer.

That still doesn’t change the fact that the Peruvian player is still largely underrated, even after participating at the World Cup.

Thankfully, youngsters such as Marcos López are stepping outside of their comfort zones and moved abroad. The Descentralizado is scouted more heavily these days, too. Other Peruvian under-20 players have agents with their client’s interests in mind as well.

We might’ve been naive to think that Peruvian football would’ve undergone a holistic revolution within a couple of windows. Sustained success will lead to a proper transformation.

Look at Chile from the Marcelo Bielsa era to Jorge Sampaoli’s successes. Even though the back-to-back Copa América triumphs are in the rear-view mirror, the likes of Arturo Vidal are representing the biggest clubs in the world, even if they’re slowing down.

It’s disappointing to see talented players stagnating. However, as long as they perform for Peru and the national team continues to develop in this upcoming World Cup cycle, that’s what matters. The trickle-down effect will follow.

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