Blas Riveros: Is he the next Roberto Carlos?

Basel left-back Blas Riveros
Image: Basel left-back Blas Riveros is attracting attention

Basel left-back Blas Riveros has been likened to Roberto Carlos and has a chance to showcase his skills in front of Pep Guardiola on Wednesday in their Champions League second-leg clash with Manchester City.

There are high hopes in South America for the energetic 20-year-old and here, World Football Index's Tom Robinson charts his progress…

After their 4-0 first leg defeat to Manchester City, only a miracle will see Basel maintain their fantastic run in the Champions League.

Part of the reason why Basel have been able to punch above their weight on the European stage is directly related to their youth development and talent identification. The likes of Ivan Rakitic, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Salah have all made their formative steps on the St Jakob-Park turf before moving on to bigger stages.

Dimitri Oberlin and Mohammed Elyounoussi are two of the most highly rated prospects of the current Basel crop, but quietly making a name for himself is Riveros.

Riveros
Image: Riveros featured for Basel against Manchester City

Signed in the summer of 2016 for around £2million, the Paraguayan has slowly been eased into the Basel first team and this season has become more of a regular, battling it out with Raoul Petretta for a starting berth at left back.

An attack-minded full back with great pace, stamina and technique, Riveros is seen as one of his country's best young prospects. There are high hopes that he will be able to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Derlis Gonzalez, who also enjoyed a fruitful spell at Basel.

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Born in Itaugua, close to the capital Asuncion, Riveros originally started out as a forward before being converted into a defender.

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Riveros went on to make his debut as a 17-year-old for Olimpia, one of the biggest clubs in Paraguay, and in his first season helped them to a Torneo Clausura title.

Francisco Arce, the man who gave Riveros his debut, heaped high praise on the teenager: "He has character, personality and is fearless. He reminds me of Roberto Carlos."

At international level, Riveros also impressed from a young age. He starred for the Paraguay U17s at the 2015 Sudamericano as the Albirojita qualified for the U17 World Cup for the first time since 2001.

His meteoric rise was capped by a call up to Paraguay's squad for the 2016 Copa Centenario. At just 18-years-old, Riveros was the youngest member of the squad but didn't end up making an appearance. However, he didn't have to wait long for his debut, winning his first cap in a friendly against Mexico in 2016.

Riveros would go on to make 23 appearances for Olimpia and his performances attracted attention from Barcelona, Manchester United and Benfica.

However, it was Basel who saw enough in the promising Paraguayan and swooped in to bring him to Switzerland as a long-term project. After a year of adaptation to a new environment and style of play, they are now beginning to reap the rewards.

during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester United and FC Basel at Old Trafford on September 12, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
Image: Riveros played at Old Trafford against Manchester United

Though still raw and occasionally naive on the defensive side of his game, Riveros's fine left-footed deliveries and tireless raids down the flank make him a perfect fit for the modern wing back role.

What's more, given Basel's domestic dominance, Riveros is at a club where he will be given license to bomb forward and where his defensive lapses will not be as harshly punished.

Paraguay may have failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but there is a sense that there is a promising generation ready to step up, with Riveros very much at the forefront.

The likes of Antonio Sanabria, Miguel Almiron, Oscar Romero and Derlis Gonzalez are exciting attacking players reaching their prime and will be key figures in the next qualification campaign.

Knocking on the door are Riveros and a number of his U20 teammates such as Sergio Diaz, Jesus Medina and Cristhian Paredes - all of whom could go on to be stalwarts for the national team for the next decade or so.

For now the next step is for Riveros to establish himself as a guaranteed starter for Basel and the international caps will surely follow. He is already the second youngest Paraguayan to score in the Champions League - behind Roque Santa Cruz - after he netted in Basel's 5-0 demolition of Benfica.

Despite the hype and attention surrounding him, Riveros has remained humble to his working-class roots. When asked what his hopes and ambitions were, he said: "I want to help my family, to give them a better life. That is the most important thing for me."

If he continues at his current rate, then he may well be the next star of the Basel production line.

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