José Manuel López should be announced as Palmeiras’ new striker in the coming days. At 21, the player is treated as one of the revelations of Argentine football and arrives in Brazil with the responsibility of being the dreamed number 9 of the current two-time champion of Libertadores.
Born in a town of just three thousand inhabitants in the interior of Argentina, “El Flaco” took his first steps in amateur teams in the region, was hired and released by Independiente, suffered a serious injury that made him think about leaving football, but managed to turn around in Lanús. The next mission should be the first experience outside the home country.
Below, ge details some of the still short – and intense – career of José Manuel López.
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José Manuel López, from Lanús — Photo: Lanús / Publicity
Born in San Lorenzo, a city of just three thousand inhabitants in the interior of Argentina, López took his first steps in football in amateur teams in the region, such as El Progreso and Atlético Saladas, being watched by Boca Juniors. At the age of nine, he started to play in the youth categories of Independiente.
José Manuel López also earned the nickname “El Flaco” (The Skinny) in the youth categories, on account of his 77 kilos distributed in a height of 1.88m.
There were seven seasons going through all the categories of the seven-time champion of the Libertadores da América. In 2016, he was promoted to the professional squad for a trial period under the eyes of Ariel Holan, Independiente’s coach at the time and who passed through Santos in 2021. The striker did not like it and was dismissed.
Injury and near career end
Before being promoted to the professional squad of Independiente, “El Flaco” almost gave up on his career. At the age of 15, a hip injury left the striker practically unable to walk, as he revealed in an interview with La Nacion, a traditional Argentine newspaper.
– I had a problem that almost made me give up football. I had an injury in my waist, in my bones, which barely allowed me to walk. I thought about leaving for a while, but the desire was stronger – said Flaco, in an interview with La Nación.
Recovered, López was released the following year by Independiente. And it was from there that his story began to change in Argentine football.
José Manuel López celebrates a goal for Lanús, from Argentina – Photo: Disclosure
Released from Independiente, López went through a period of testing and was hired by Lanús in 2017. Acting as a centre-forward, second striker and even midfielder, the player failed to establish himself the following season and ended up on loan at Atlético Colegiales, where he was top scorer. and helped the club gain access to the top division of the Argentine Regional League.
Back at Lanús, it took him just two games and six days to score the first goal in the first division of the Argentine Championship, in the victory over Rosário Central, in January 2021.
In all, he scored 13 goals in 25 games, finishing as the fifth highest scorer in the championship and the reputation of being a great header.
– You have to train your coordination for the jump, you have to catch the ball at the highest point. But that comes naturally to me. I have the instinct, the impulse to arrive – said López, in an interview with La Nación, about his ability to score goals with his head.
On the radar of the Argentine national team
The good performance throughout the 2021 season made López be monitored by Lionel Scaloni, coach of the Argentina national team. There were 13 goals in 25 games in the 2020/21 Argentine Championship, acting as a reference. In the current season, further back, there were seven goals in 19 matches.
Lionel Scaloni thinks of Lopez as an option for the Argentina team’s attack – Photo: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters
The versatility of being able to act as a center forward and also as a second striker, in addition to being young, aroused the interest of the Argentine coaching staff after the retirement of Sergio “Kun” Agüero. The search is for a name that can reshape the offensive sector after the World Cup.
Despite the Argentine press pointing to “Flaco” as an option, Scaloni has yet to call him up.
The tendency is for the striker to be better observed after the Qatar World Cup. At 21 years old, López could not defend Argentina at the Paris Olympics in 2024, as he would be above the age limit (23 years old), increasing his chances of being part of the main group.
Fan of Thierry Henry and Nacho Fernández
Two players who inspire the possible new signing of Palmeiras can give you a taste of what to expect from the Argentine’s style of play.
In interviews with local publications, López cites the former French striker as a great reference, largely because of his physical appearance and the characteristics of being a light and defining player.
Another reference cited by “El Flaco” is compatriot Nacho Fernández, currently a midfielder for Atlético-MG, who could be a rival in the fight for several titles throughout the season. Nacho spent six seasons at River Plate, a team that was also interested in signing López.
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