21 Defender River Plate Colombia
2014 has been...
Given that it was only April last year that Éder Balanta made his debut in the top flight of Argentinean football for River Plate, it’s been an impressively quick rise for the central defender to his position now as one of world football’s hottest young prospects. It may only be a matter of weeks before he is tempted towards European shores by a generous offer from a team desperate for a new leader in defence or one that cynically spots an eventual payday in the 21 year-old.
Éder has had a hectic 12 months with club and country. It was around this time last year that Jose Pekerman first called the River Plate defender into the senior squad with the Colombian national team. The inclusion allowed Balanta to get to know his international team-mates and in March, just three months before the FIFA World Cup he made his debut for the nation of his birth.
Having impressed with River Plate and done enough in those weeks with Pekerman, Éder was eventually included in the final 23-man panel and was part of the Colombia squad that reached the last eight of the tournament. His only performance in the competition came in the group stage rubber against Japan with Los Cafeteros already sure of a place in the knock-out stages.
Left-footed, well built, commanding in the air and a no-nonsense tackler, the young Balanta is also blessed with just enough technical skill and rip-roaring pace that can chase down almost any attacker. He’s as close to a complete defender as they probably come at 21.
Unsurprisingly, he is seen as a future leader of the Colombia defence. For us, he might just be the missing link between this exciting young attacking team coming together as a good national team and coming together as a national team that can win the Copa America and maybe even get close to a World Cup crown.
Éder joined River at 18 after playing for Academia (now Llaneros) in Colombia. Balanta joined Academica as a forward and as the youngster progressed through their youth ranks, he worked his way backwards in the team; eventually slotting in at the heart of the defence. His preference of using his left foot does mean he has been used as a left-back in the past. The position doesn’t suit him and he looks out of sorts when shoved out wide.
When he first joined River, Balanta was used predominantly in their under-20 side and he was a big part of their Under-20 Copa Libertadores success in 2012. His performances in said competition eventually lead to his promotion into the first team squad and after a solid debut in a 2-0 win he has remained in the team.
River Plate are very aware of the exquisite diamond they have pulled from the rough and have done very little to deter the interest that is being showing in Éder by Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool to name but a few. He is a defender that can read the game brilliantly and can drive out of defence in possession to set attacks in motion with the mentality of a seasoned pro.
Whichever club wins the eventual bidding war for his services, their fans will have every right to be excited about seeing Éder standing firm in their backline.
"Has looked like a veteran ever since making his debut in 2013. Now a rotation option, but through no fault of his own. Big things are ahead." - Sam Kelly
"Éder Balanta has won 61% of his duels (269 of 441) in the Argentina Primera since his debut." - OptaJoe
B A defender with a real touch of class. Europe beckons.
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