Alvarez sealed his £14m move to Man City in January but stayed at River Plate on loan; Argentine striker will link up with the Premier League champions this weekend; 22-year-old is regarded as one of the most exciting young players in South America
Friday 8 July 2022 10:56, UK
A lot of Manchester City's transfer talk this summer will surround how Erling Haaland settles in at the Etihad Stadium - but let's not forget they have another young forward coming into the club.
River Plate forward Julian Alvarez will finally arrive in Manchester this weekend having stayed at River Plate on loan following the completion of his £14m move to City last January.
The 22-year-old is very highly rated and caught the eye in May when he smashed six goals for River in an 8-1 victory over Allianz Lima in the Copa Libertadores.
Manchester City fans will be hoping he strikes up a deadly partnership with Haaland at the Etihad, but what can they really expect from their new young striker?
If there were any doubts Man City fans had over Alvarez, they were put to bed with his stunning six-goal outing against Allianz Lima back in May.
Alvarez scored all three River Plate goals in the opening 45 minutes and added further goals on 54, 57 and 83 minutes against their Peruvian opponents.
In total, Alvarez scored 17 goals in 26 games for River in 2022 - to add to the 24 goals he scored in all competitions in 2021.
The striker's double hat-trick made him the first player in the club's 121-year history to score six goals in the same game - and he will now be eyeing up some Manchester City records as well, if he can get into the team alongside fellow new man Haaland.
It was only last January that Alvarez emerged as a target for Manchester City but the forward has long been on the radar of Europe's elite.
In fact, he spent a month on trial in Real Madrid's youth academy when he was only 11 years old.
A move did not materialise on the back of that trial, due in part to age restrictions on foreign signings in Spain, but within a few years he was picked up by Argentinian giants River, the club he supported as a child.
Former Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick was also interested in bringing him to Old Trafford in the January transfer window, but the club's board rejected a move for a striker in that window.
With Alvarez still in incredible form for River, Premier League club City have already received loan offers for the young forward, but the plan is to keep him at the Etihad Stadium next season.
City sporting director Ferran Soriano said this month: "We have had many offers from clubs to loan Julian Alvarez - but he is not going to leave.
"He will do the pre-season with us and I think he will stay. Barcelona were not among those who were interested."
Alvarez impressed at youth level, both for River Plate and internationally for Argentina, and in the summer of 2018 he was part of a group of young players who travelled with the country's senior squad to the World Cup in Russia to take part in training sessions.
The experience of rubbing shoulders with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and the rest served Alvarez well, and when he returned to River Plate he was promoted to the first-team squad by long-serving manager Marcelo Gallardo.
Alvarez was given the No 9 shirt and handed his debut in October 2018. "He is a player who every manager would like to coach," said Gallardo at the time, going on to describe the youngster as a "team player" with an attitude to match his precocious talent.
Alvarez soon began featuring regularly for River and that December, seven years after his trial with Real Madrid, he was given the opportunity to step out at the Bernabeu in the rearranged Copa Libertadores final against Boca Juniors.
The striker, still only 18, was thrown on with the scores level in the first half of extra-time, a huge show of faith by Gallardo which paid off as River went on to beat their bitter rivals 3-1 and lift the trophy.
Alvarez has long idolised Aguero - "I like Kun Aguero a lot and I try to copy his movements," he said in an interview with La Nacion in 2019 - and a move to the Etihad Stadium would give him the opportunity to follow in his former international team-mate's footsteps.
It would be a huge ask to emulate his achievements, of course, but the comparisons to the City legend are not entirely fanciful.
Like Aguero, Alvarez stands at 5ft 8ins and, in addition to being quick, he is deceptively strong, his stocky build and low centre of gravity making him difficult to push off the ball.
Aguero is sometimes categorised as a goal poacher but he scored all kinds of goals for City and a breakdown of Alvarez's Primera Division goals for River last season shows similar variety.
Alvarez converted the majority of his goals from inside the box - a total of four from inside the six-yard box underlining his goal-poaching abilities - but there were also five from outside the area.
No other player in the division managed more than three, a statistic which underlines his threat from distance as well as close-range.
Alvarez has a hammer of a right foot, generating impressive power with minimal back-lift, but he is by no means one-footed. In fact, he is similarly strong on his left, scoring five of his 18 goals last season with his weaker foot.
There was even a goal with his head. Alvarez may be small in stature but, like Aguero, he is dangerous in the air, his combative nature ensuring he does not shy away from aerial challenges.
Where he clearly differs form his idol, however, is in his positional versatility. Alvarez now plays up front for River but he is not an out-and-out striker like Aguero. In fact, he is similarly effective off the right and spent his younger years operating as a winger.
While Aguero did his best work in and around the penalty box, Alvarez has a habit of dropping into spaces between the lines, where he is able to pick up possession on the turn and use his speed and skill to drive past opposition defenders from deeper positions.
It remains to be seen whether he will even come close to matching the extraordinary standards set by his idol. But Alvarez's star potential is already clear.
Alvarez has expressed his delight ahead of joining up with his new Manchester City team-mates, insisting he is confident of flourishing in the Premier League.
"I am incredibly happy and I feel ready to play for City," he told the club's official website.
"This is, without doubt, one of the biggest teams in world football. You only have to see what this team has won in the last decade to understand the quality of the setup.
"I feel confident I can flourish here. The style of play Pep encourages is exciting and I can't wait to be a part of it.
"City has an amazing recent history of Argentinian players and I want to put my stamp on the club in the same way Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez did.
"I am so thankful for everything River Plate did for me and I want to thank the fans, staff and players for their support.
"But I am now 100 per cent focused on Manchester City. I want to give my best to this club, help my teammates and contribute to Manchester City's success."
Alvarez will be unveiled by City alongside fellow new signings Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips and Stefan Ortega outside the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaking in February:
"Manchester City works to be in the present but also in the future and the immediate future. He could be with us right now but we have so many players in that position so the best for him is to stay in River Plate.
"He has developed incredibly well in the last few years with Marcelo Gallardo and in the next pre-season he will be with us. Then we will decide what happens because in every pre-season, the squads move. But we are really pleased to have this talented young player for the next years."
South American football expert Tim Vickery to Sky Sports News in January:
"He is the best thing to come out of Argentine football in a while - he's a really talented support striker. He's been brought along really carefully by the River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo.
"He reminds me of [former Aston Villa striker] Gary Shaw, a great player in the early 1980s until he struggled with a serious injury. He was almost like an English Kenny Dalglish. Alvarez has some of those similar attributes, he's wonderful at taking the ball on the half turn, playing the pass and moving into position.
"You can play him right up top, but moving to Europe he will find it physically hard to adapt at first. But there's real ability there and his movement is quick but his mind is quicker. He's a really special player."