The league is set to kick off this weekend, and while the clubs are still putting together their squads, we took a look at some of the players to watch this season in Colombia.
Jesús Marimón – Patriotas Boyacá
Featured in The Guardian’s next generation of 2015, he is back in Colombia after some less than fruitful years in Belgium. The central midfielder who came over from Royal Excel Mouscron didn’t get game time mainly due to several injuries that kept him sidelined. Marimón, once dubbed the Colombian Yaya Touré, is a box-to-box midfielder who likes to cover a lot of ground and is very strong on the ball. The former Colombian youth international hasn’t played a game since April 2018, so there are question marks around his fitness, but when fit he should be a useful addition to the team from Tunja.
Jarlan Barrera – Atlético Nacional
The creative midfielder was one of the pillars of the Junior de Barranquilla team in 2018 that were champions in Colombia and Copa Sudamericana finalists. El Pibe Valderrama’s nephew got a tasty move to Argentina, but failed to make an impression at Rosario Central. The 23-year-old player, not known for his mental strength, came back to Colombia and will be closer to home at Atlético Nacional’s renovated team.
Álvaro Montero – Deportes Tolima
The goalkeeper’s fame has risen steeply since his key role in the Deportes Tolima title in 2018. Montero was one of the best goalkeepers in the Copa Libertadores group stage, but couldn’t avoid his team’s elimination. He made his debut for Colombia versus Paraguay in the Copa América. The 1.95m goalkeeper might be looking for a move abroad soon, but as long as he is here, he is one of the players to keep an eye on. However, Montero also has a possible doping suspension hanging over his head after testing positive for a forbidden substance in March this year.
Germán Cano – Independiente Medellín
Germán Cano and Colombia has been a happy marriage. In the 18 months that Cano has been back in Colombia, the Argentinian striker has notched 53 goals in 67 league games. The 31-year-old striker has had unsuccessful spells in Mexico, Paraguay and Argentina, but in Colombia he is unstoppable. Despite 20 goals, Cano couldn’t prevent Independiente Medellín missing out on the top eight last season, so silverware with his club is the only thing missing from his career in Colombia.
Luis Sánchez – América de Cali
The attacking midfielder made his debut for América de Cali earlier this year under Fernando ‘Pecoso’ Castro, coming through their youth ranks. Sánchez, still only 18 years old, made a great impression in his first games and seems set to become a starter this season. Combining good technique with decent pace, the handy player was a pleasure to watch in his first season, and seems to have a bright future ahead of him.
Felipe Jaramillo – Millonarios
Coming from relegated Leones at the beginning of this year, little was expected from Felipe Jaramillo but he turned out to be a great signing for Millonarios last season. The holding midfielder became one of the best players in the team that dominated the league for most of the time, until an injury brought an end to his season. In preseason matches, Jaramillo has already shown that he hasn’t lost his touch and is someone to watch in Bogotá.
Leandro Castellanos – Independiente Santa Fe
Santa Fe ended bottom of the table last season and one of the problem areas was the goalkeeper position. Castellanos, captain at Santa Fe, missed the entire season due to an injury. But completely fit, the leader at the back is one of the players that keeps the team together. Giovanni Banguera has gone back to Huila to make room for Castellanos’ return. The talented but inexperienced Banguera was a source of stress for the defence last year so the experienced Castellanos could bring the confidence back in goal.
Luis ‘Cariaco’ González – Junior de Barranquilla
The 28-year-old Venezuelan came over from Tolima this season where he was one of the best players. The right winger scores easily and his crosses are at times brilliant. ‘Cariaco,’ named after the town where he was born, played several games for the Venezuelan squad last year, but surprisingly missed out on the Copa América. Junior lost their star Luis Díaz, who signed for FC Porto, so Cariaco has got tough shoes to fill on the other wing.
Pablo Sabbag – La Equidad
La Equidad, the only Colombian team still in an international tournament, faces Bolivian Royal Pari in the Copa Sudamericana this month. The team signed Pablo Sabbag, who was dubbed a future star after he went through the youth ranks of Deportivo Cali, from the Portuguese league. The striker went to Tondela last year but got barely any playing time, so now the 22-year-old is looking to revive his career in Bogotá.
Manager to watch: Juan Carlos Osorio – Atlético Nacional
El Profe is back. After some years in charge of the Mexican national team with mixed successes, Osorio is back at Nacional. In his first spell at the club between 2012 and 2015, he won three league titles, three other titles and made the Copa Sudamericana final. Nacional were almost unbeatable in the domestic league, but he is especially known for his unorthodox rotation and not being afraid to play players out of position. Expectations are running high for his second spell at Nacional, who have had some meagre years of late. Whether he does well or not, with Osorio in charge, it will never be boring.