By Mike Rice.
Lima-based teams Alianza Lima, Sporting Cristal and Universitario are the dominant clubs in Peru. Players will flock to Lima at a young age looking to find opportunity in the strongest academies to aid their development.
With the vast distances between some of the biggest cities, from Lima to Cusco to Arequipa and Trujillo, it can be difficult for those with little funds to continue to compete and develop young players.
Lima offers more competition and, with more investment available, an opportunity for young players with the potential to develop further.
The bigger clubs in the provinces are looking to further develop young players and have competed well in recent years.
Trujillo’s Cesar Vallejo is in the Copa Libertadores qualifying rounds for a second straight season, while Arequipa’s Melgar has been a bright spark for Peruvian football with his performances in the Sudamericana.
More investment is being made in the country’s teams and with La Bolsa – a minutes requirement for young players in La Liga 1 – there is the opportunity to continue to work their way into the first team and build their reputations .
Not only have those on the list below impressed, but they have also shown their ability to play regular first-team football as well as having the potential to move to bigger leagues and be called up to the national team .
Percy Liza (21) Sporting Crystal
The 2021 Young Player of the Year is currently touring Europe and has been spotted playing games at Anderlecht in particular.
He currently remains a Sporting Cristal player, but his performances have made teams around the world take notice.
A big and strong striker, he started out in the academy as a wide player, operating mainly on the right side.
But since the departure of Emmanuel Herrera last season and his replacement Marcos Riquelme struggling to find form, Liza has been thrust into the centre-forward role.
It’s not a role unfamiliar to him, but he has shown his ability to be a complete centre-forward in a 4-3-3 formation by scoring six times and assisting three times in an impressive season.
Jhilmar Lora (21) Sporting Cristal
The right-back started the year as the third-choice but almost immediately became a regular starter and even became a national team player, now seen as Luis Advíncula’s long-term replacement.
As Lora continues to perform, he shows maturity and discipline that help him rise above many others his age.
Combine that with his excellent technical ability and competitive defensive work, he looks ready to break into the national team and a departure from Peru is already inevitable.
He’s a small defender with a light build, but his intelligence and positioning ensure he’s not overpowered by any attacker and has already produced a fine display against Argentina in the Copa America.
Aron Sanchez (18) Cantolao Academy
Sanchez’s physical profile sets him apart in the league, especially considering his young age. He has become a Cantolao regular and one of the most notable young centre-backs.
He is not only big, but also fast. His positioning could be improved, but his pace makes up for that in La Liga 1 and his 1v1 defense is very impressive.
Cantolao is struggling in Liga 1 and a move to a stronger team in Peru may be a good way to develop further, although for the potential he has other South American sides may be viable destinations.
Alfonso Barco (20) University
Signed from San Martin de Porres, Universitario addresses a key area of the team that needed improvement. Barco provide a composed and reliable presence in the center of midfield.
He is tidy in possession and is disciplined to operate in a more defensive midfield role. Not the fastest, he reads the game well in order to position himself in the zones to break up attacks and make interceptions.
Barco’s quick passing and consistent movement ensure that his team will continue to threaten opponents whenever they have possession of the ball.
Without looking rushed in possession, he keeps the game moving and doesn’t slow down the possibility of building an attack.
The rise of San Martin gives Barco the opportunity to further develop its already impressive skills.
Paolo Reyna (20) Melgar
Paolo Reyna has now become one of Peru’s most consistent and impressive full-backs over the past two seasons.
At 183cm, he is one of the tallest full-backs in the league and was a key part of a Melgar side that performed well in the Copa Sudamericana last year.
Defensively resolute, he also reads the game well to intercept and regain possession of the ball. For a reason often overlooked in Peru, he has yet to claim a spot in the national team, despite being on the sidelines of call-ups.
Another solid showing in the Sudamericana will surely get others noticed; it would be surprising not to see him move abroad soon.
Oslimg Mora (22) Alianza Lima
After Alianza Lima prepared for life in La Liga 2, several players left. Cancellation of CAS brought them back to Liga 1 and manager Carlos Bustos had to prepare his side to be competitive, he passed and overshot as Alianza became champions in 2021.
Due to this off-season upset, Oslimg Mora, usually a winger who had a bad 2020 like most of his teammates, was converted to a winger. Bustos felt the available players didn’t suit his usual 4-3-3 formation.
Mora has returned to the form that saw him hyped a few years ago and has even shown enough to earn a call up to the national team. After breaking through the side as a light and fast winger; he has grown physically and is a robust wide player capable of attacking at pace.
Rafael Lutiger (20) Sporting Cristal
Lutiger thrived on a season-long loan to Trujillo playing for Carlos Mannucci. The left centre-back is a tall, composed player with an excellent ability to spot assists.
He is also effective in a left-back role due to his comfort on the ball and his passing abilities. As a central defender, he is strong in the air with the ability to match forward movement to protect routes to goal and intercept well.
He returns to Cristal with the aim of breaking into the first team with fellow academy graduate Gianfranco Chavez who is coming off a disappointing return from injury. Between them however, if they are both in good shape, Cristal has a bright future in the center of defence.
Jefferson Nolasco (19) Cesar Vallejo
Young goalkeepers are finding opportunities hard to come by, but Jefferson Nolasco has been able to compete for the first-team role this season and has shown impressive potential.
He is an agile goalkeeper with quick reflexes able to react to deflections and parries to prepare for rebound shots. His positional sense is good and at 185cm he can recover the ball well from crosses.
Its distribution is to work, with the feet and the hands. He is not too precise with his long passes and needs to improve his ability to move the ball with his feet when receiving passes.
Jostin Alarcon (19) Sports Boys
The Sport Boys overcame last season to some extent and managed to qualify for the Copa Sudamericana. Jostin Alarcon was one of those who provided the attacking threat which saw the Sport Boys a tough team to come up against on a weekly basis.
His threat on the ball is his 1v1 run and his ability to shoot well from long range as well. He is quick to react, able to be creative under pressure with his cast. He also moves well after the pass; he loses markers and identifies space away from the ball.
With the chance to participate in the Sudamericana, Alarcon will likely attract more interest after a great first season. He managed 2 goals and 4 assists and hopes to improve his end product in 2022.
Franco Zanelatto (21) Alianza Lima
Another bright young talent at San Martin who missed much of Phase 2 which ended up seeing the team relegated. He is a quick, tricky and exciting winger who has caught the eye of every team in the league.
Alianza brought him in as he currently occupies a foreign spot on the list as he was born in Paraguay but is eligible for Peruvian citizenship and may change that in 2022.
He was loaned out for the 2022 season to Alianza Atlético to have a full season to continue his development.
San Martin reached the Stage 1 final and his play on the wing was a key part of their success, Atlético have a great chance to improve last season with him on the wing.