Alvarez completed a £14m move to Man City in January but stayed at River Plate; the Argentine striker will link up with the Premier League champions later this summer for pre-season; the 22-year-old scored six goals in River’s 8-1 Copa Libertadores win this week
A lot of Manchester City’s transfer talk this summer will surround how Erling Haaland settles in at the Etihad Stadium – but let’s not forget they have another young forward coming into the club.
River Plate forward Julian Alvarez is set to finally move to Manchester this summer after completing a £14m transfer from the Argentine club on Transfer Deadline Day last January.
The 22-year-old is very highly rated and caught the eye this week when he scored six goals for River in their 8-1 victory over Allianz Lima on Wednesday night. Just imagine if him and Haaland both hit purple patches for City this season…
Alvarez is scheduled to link up with City later in the summer for pre-season training, so what can fans of Pep Guardiola’s side expect to see from their new young striker?
Alvarez will arrive at Man City in incredible form
If there were any doubts Man City fans had over Alvarez, they were put to bed this week after Alvarez’s stunning six-goal outing against Allianz Lima in the Copa Libertadores.
Alvarez scored all three River Plate goals in the opening 45 minutes and added further goals on 54, 57 and 83 minutes against their Peruvian opponents
The 22-year-old has 14 goals in 17 appearances this season in the cup competitions so far – to add to the 18 goals he scored in the 2021 Argentinian top-flight.
The striker is the first player in the club’s 121-year history to score six goals in the same game – and he will be eyeing up some Manchester City records as well too, if he can get into the team alongside fellow new man Haaland.
Real Madrid and Man United are long-term fans of him
It is only in recent months that Alvarez has emerged as a target for Manchester City but the forward has long been on the radar of Europe’s elite.
In fact, he spent a month on trial in Real Madrid’s youth academy when he was only 11 years old.
A move did not materialise on the back of that trial, due in part to age restrictions on foreign signings in Spain, but within a few years he was picked up by Argentinian giants River Plate, the club he supported as a child.
Ralf Rangnick says the Manchester United board rejected his plea to sign a striker in January despite the availability of Luis Diaz, Julian Alvarez and Dusan Vlahovic.
Former Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick was also interested in bringing him to Old Trafford in the January transfer window – but the club’s board rejected a move for a striker in that window.
With Alvarez still in incredible form for River, Premier League club City have already received loan offers for the young forward – but the plan is to keep him at the Etihad Stadium next season.
City sporting director Ferran Soriano said this month: “We have had many offers from clubs to loan Julian Alvarez – but he is not going to leave.
“He will do the pre-season with us and I think he will stay. Barcelona were not among those who were interested.”
Alvarez impressed at youth level, both for River Plate and internationally for Argentina, and in the summer of 2018 he was part of a group of young players who travelled with the country’s senior squad to the World Cup in Russia to take part in training sessions.
The experience of rubbing shoulders with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and the rest served Alvarez well, and when he returned to River Plate he was promoted to the first-team squad by long-serving manager Marcelo Gallardo.
Alvarez was given the No 9 shirt and handed his debut in October 2018. “He is a player who every manager would like to coach,” said Gallardo at the time, going on to describe the youngster as a “team player” with an attitude to match his precocious talent.
Alvarez soon began featuring regularly for River and that December, seven years after his trial with Real Madrid, he was given the opportunity to step out at the Bernabeu in the rearranged Copa Libertadores final against Boca Juniors.
The striker, still only 18, was thrown on with the scores level in the first half of extra time, a huge show of faith by Gallardo which paid off as River went on to beat their bitter rivals 3-1 and lift the trophy.
Alvarez is being compared to Aguero
Alvarez has long idolised Aguero – “I like Kun Aguero a lot and I try to copy his movements,” he said in an interview with La Nacion in 2019 – and a move to the Etihad Stadium would give him the opportunity to follow in his former international team-mate’s footsteps.
It would be a huge ask to emulate his achievements, of course, but the comparisons to the City legend are not entirely fanciful.
Like Aguero, Alvarez stands at 5ft 8ins and, in addition to being quick, he is deceptively strong, his stocky build and low centre of gravity making him difficult to push off the ball.
Aguero is sometimes categorised as a goal poacher but he scored all kinds of goals for City and a breakdown of Alvarez’s Primera Division goals for River last season shows similar variety.
Alvarez converted the majority of his goals from inside the box – a total of four from inside the six-yard box underlining his goal-poaching abilities – but there were also five from outside the area.
No other player in the division managed more than three, a statistic which underlines his threat from distance as well as close-range.
Alvarez has a hammer of a right foot, generating impressive power with minimal back-lift, but he is by no means one-footed. In fact, he is similarly strong on his left, scoring five of his 18 goals last season with his weaker foot.
There was even a goal with his head. Alvarez may be small in stature but, like Aguero, he is dangerous in the air, his combative nature ensuring he does not shy away from aerial challenges.
Where he clearly differs form his idol, however, is in his positional versatility. Alvarez now plays up front for River but he is not an out-and-out striker like Aguero. In fact, he is similarly effective off the right and spent his younger years operating as winger.
While Aguero did his best work in and around the penalty box, Alvarez has a habit of dropping into spaces between the lines, where he is able to pick up possession on the turn and use his speed and skill to drive past opposition defenders from deeper positions.
It remains to be seen whether he will even come close to matching the extraordinary standards set by his idol. But Alvarez’s star potential is already clear.
What have the experts said about Alvarez?
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaking in February:
“Manchester City works to be in the present but also in the future and the immediate future. He could be with us right now but we have so many players in that position so the best for him is to stay in River Plate.
“He has developed incredibly well in the last few years with Marcelo Gallardo and in the next pre-season he will be with us. Then we will decide what happens because in every pre-season, the squads move. But we are really pleased to have this talented young player for the next years.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he is really pleased the club has managed to sign Julian Alvarez marking him down as a player for the future.
South American football expert Tim Vickery to Sky Sports News in January:
“He is the best thing to come out of Argentine football in a while – he’s a really talented support striker. He’s been brought along really carefully by the River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo.
“He reminds me of [former Aston Villa striker] Gary Shaw, a great player in the early 1980s until he struggled with a serious injury. He was almost like an English Kenny Dalglish. Alvarez has some of those similar attributes, he’s wonderful at taking the ball on the half turn, playing the pass and moving into position.
“You can play his right up top but moving to Europe he will find physically it to adapt at first. But there’s real ability there and his movement is quick but his mind is quicker. He’s a really special player.”