Talent Scout: Andy Polo, Universitario
Saturday 29 October 2011
As Derby County gave a shock Championship start to 15-year-old Mason Bennett last weekend, football fans up and down the country looked on in unified surprise, at a début for a player only able to feature because of the half term school break.
A solid performance, in what proved to be a 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough, combined with a brace for England's Under-16's two weeks previously, leaves Bennett as one of the most sought after prospects around. Yet almost 6000 miles away, another youngster, being chased by the same top clubs, also caught the eye.
He's Andy Polo, a promising Peruvian striker, who was busy bagging an equaliser for Universitario in their 1-1 draw with Godoy Cruz, whilst talk of Bennett continued. It was a goal and performance that only proved to further entice the on-looking scouts, many of whom were representing Europe's elite outfits.
For those who have followed the Polo story, the attention he's getting is no surprise. Born into a poor family in Lima, Perú, he joined the ranks of the country's most successful ever club side, Universitario, aged 10. Six years later, a first-team début last April was followed up with a trophy, as he helped secure the Under-20 version of the Copa Libertadores, for the first time in the club's 87 year history.
His stock has also risen on the international front, with three goals in four games for Perú's Under-17's, leading to national team coach Sergio Markarian lauding Polo as 'a complete striker. He's not far wrong. Pace, power, composure and a good range of finishing - it's all there, but delve a little deeper, and you'll discover those abilities are remarkably well developed, for somebody so young.
Polo is still quite raw and tactically naive, but his well tuned instincts, intelligence and admirable spirit all aid mature decision making. Whether that's timing runs in behind defenders, creating space for himself in the box, or shot selection, he chooses options few players his age have the awareness to.
At 16, Polo is already well physically developed. Strong, powerful and enthusiastic in duels with defenders, he's only five foot seven inches tall, but is surprisingly illusive and dominant in the air. Tricky, stocky, quick and with a good attitude, there's a lot going for him, but as a striker, it's all about scoring goals.
And that's where he shows off perhaps his best asset - finishing. Polo has been operating as a winger in recent weeks, but it's clear that a role down the middle is his future. In front of goal, the 16-year-old is an intriguing mix of composure with placed finishes, and explosive lashes. The consistency needs some work, but the basics are all there.
Ultimately, Polo is a diamond in the rough. He's already shown enough to warrant a transfer, where, with continued development, the addition of better tactical nous and work tidying up other parts of his game, he can take a place among the new wave of South American strikers taking Europe by storm.
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