In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Peñarol’s 20-year old Uruguayan striker, Agustín Álvarez Martínez.

The Copa Sudamericana Round of 16 served up an exciting clash between the big two of Uruguayan football, with Peñarol edging bitter rivals Nacional on away goals after a 2-2 draw. Los Carboneros edged the first leg 2-1 and managed to hold on in the reverse fixture for a historic victory and local bragging rights.

A key player in Peñarol’s run to the quarter-finals has been their young striker Agustin Alvarez Martinez. The 20-year-old is the tournament’s top scorer with 8 goals in 10 games, including a perfect hat-trick against Corinthians in the group stage.

However, it’s not just in a continental competition that Alvarez Martinez has been amongst the goals. Nicknamed 'El Canario' (the Canary), he had a prolific record at the youth level, scoring 113 goals in 170 games and has made the step up to the senior team look easy.

Alvarez only made his debut last September but has been in unstoppable form since the turn of the year, with 21 goals so far in 2021. Averaging 0.58 goals per 90, with an xG of 0.47, his exploits have caught the eye of numerous clubs, most notably Ajax.

As with any good striker, Alvarez’s finishing really stands out. As the stat below demonstrates, he is at his most lethal inside the penalty box thanks to his off-the-ball movement, anticipation and excellent technique.

Alvarez's shooting data from Wyscout Player Reports.

Nevertheless, El Canario is much more than purely a penalty box poacher. While he is clearly a striker who benefits from getting good service into the area, he can also fashion and finish chances for himself, such as this swivel and volley from the edge of the box against Deportivo Maldonado below.

What’s more, Alvarez is also capable of the spectacular. For his most recent goal, he showed his range of finishing by pulling off an acrobatic scissor kick against high-flying Liverpool, while he has also shown himself to be a dab hand with free-kicks from range too.

Canario Alvarez latches onto a hopeful ball into the box, wins the initial header to tee himself up for the scissor kick, which he connects with to direct the ball into the back of the net.

Another of Alvarez’s best qualities is his heading. At 1.80m, he may not be the tallest but has shown himself to have a great aerial ability, timing and a fantastic leap.

Alvarez Martinez gives himself a yard so he can attack the ball as it comes into the box. The timing, elevation and hang time he gets allows him to beat the center back and perfectly direct the header into the far corner.

While his aerial ability gives Alvarez another string to his bow when it comes to finishing, it is also a useful tool when occupying center-backs. Averaging 11.03 duels per 90 with a 40% success rate, Alvarez is able to win flick-ons, pin opposition defenders and generally make himself a nuisance all game.

His strength and physicality also make him very adept with his back to goal, while his time at youth level as a midfielder means he is also good at dropping deep to link the play too.

Alvarez checks his run into the box and drops off the center back to receive the square ball. With his first touch, he clips the ball over the defense into the path of Canobbio, who has continued his run and opens the scoring against rivals Nacional.
Alvarez drops deep, taking his marker out with him to create a dog-leg in the Liverpool back line. He controls the ball and then plays a simple but disguised reverse ball in the space for two Peñarol runs to create an overload in the center of the park and thus creating a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity.

Aside from his physical and technical attributes, Alvarez is said to be a very humble and dedicated professional who spends time studying his game carefully. Mature for his age having been a father at 16, the pressure of being the number 9 for one of the biggest clubs in the country does not seem to weigh on him either.

El Canario may well have made a flying start to his career but it is prudent to remember that he only has a year of men’s football under his belt and there are still plenty of rough edges to be smoothed out.

Fortunately, he is in the right place to continue his development. Peñarol have a rich storied history and in recent years their academy has unearthed a glut of attacking products, such as Darwin Nuñez, Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi, Facundo Pellistri and Facundo Torres.

Canario Alvarez’s performances in the last six months have elevated him from an interesting prospect to one of the best young strikers on the continent. If he can maintain this upward trajectory then, alongside wonderkid Matias Arezo, the future of the national team forward line looks to be in safe hands once Suarez and Cavani call it a day.

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