News Live Scores
NXGN

Yaser Asprilla: Colombia wonderkid out to conquer the Premier League at Watford

15:00 GMT+3 01/02/2022
Yaser Asprilla NXGN GFX
The 18-year-old attacker came through the ranks at the same club that first developed James Rodriguez, and completed a move to England in January

Stepping up from South American football to one of Europe's 'Big Five' leagues is a stern challenge, even for the most talented young players.

Ability is not always enough to make it at the elite level: a potential star also needs self-belief, and plenty of it.

Fortunately, that does not seem to be a virtue lacking in Watford's new signing, 18-year-old Colombia international Yaser Asprilla, who is already looking to surpass his namesake Faustino (no relation), perhaps the nation's most successful export to the English top flight.

“The way I'm going, humbly, I think I am going to be better than him,” Yaser announced to the world shortly after signing terms for the Hornets from Envigado, in a bold statement that quickly went viral.

“I believe in my characteristics and in my talent. I know this is going to be a great experience, in this most beautiful of careers playing football.”

Watford certainly believe they have a gem on their hands. The Premier League strugglers agreed a price of around £2.5 million ($3.4m) for Asprilla back in August, when he had played less than 10 senior games in the Liga Di Mayor for Envigado.

The teenager went on to stand out as one of the revelations of the 2021 season, netting five goals in 19 games as his side secured a respectable ninth-placed finish, just missing out on the play-offs.

A tiny club located on the outskirts of Medellin, Envigado are rarely, if ever, involved in the fight for honours in Colombia. Their speciality rather is to groom the latest generation of talent, something they do better than most.

Asprilla is just the latest graduate of a youth academy which in recent years has produced stars such as James Rodriguez, Juan Fernando Quintero, Giovanni Moreno, Mateus Uribe and Fredy Guarin, among others who have made their name on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Check out football's best wonderkids with NXGN:

Born in Bajo Baudo on Colombia's Pacific coast, wiry forward Asprilla was just 11 when he made the move to Envigado, and he soon stood out with his deadly left foot and precocious technical ability with the ball at his feet.

The youngster feels most comfortable directing play from an advanced midfield position, while he has also featured out wide for Envigado on both flanks.

Given his proficiency around goal and impressive physical stature, though, he could well find himself fitting in further up the field, playing just off the centre-forward and creating havoc in and around the area.

Those closest to Asprilla are in no doubt they have a unique asset on their hands.

“Yaser is a special player; we hadn't seen players with Faustino Asprilla's style for a while, since now they are more athletic and less skilful,” Alberto Suarez, who coached Asprilla in the club's youth ranks, explained to Blu Radio following his full international debut on January 16 against Honduras.

“He is a typical old-school player who knows how to play with his body. Against Honduras, he delighted us and made us proud because he showed what he always did at Envigado. Yaser will have football in him for a long time.

“What makes him special? He plays while thinking. He doesn't just play with his feet, but also with his body.

"When I spoke to [Colombia coach] Reinaldo Rueda, he asked me about his physical condition and body weight; he is slim, but you try and kick him because he knows how to use his body, so to stop him you have to push or grab him, but kicking him is very tough for opponents.”

Just where Asprilla - who will hope to see more international game-time in Tuesday's make-or-break World Cup qualifier against Argentina - will exercise his undoubted potential for the immediate future remained unclear through January.

It remains unknown whether he will be eligible for a UK work permit, and it was thought that Watford would choose to let him pursue precious first-team football on loan for the rest of the season, with Envigado, Colombian rivals Deportivo Cali and the Hornets' sister club Udinese cited as possible destinations.

But with transfer deadline day in Europe having come and gone, he remains part of the Watford squad, and so it will be interesting to see exactly where he lands once his international commitments are over.

He has already picked up one valuable seal of approval though, with ex-Newcastle United, Parma and Colombia ace Asprilla backing him to follow in his footsteps and make a big impression in England.

“I think it's great,” 'Tino' remarked to Blog Deportivo when asked about the youngster's comments. “He shouldn't just think about me, but a lot of players who were even better than me. I hope he can overtake us all because that's good for football and the Colombia team.

“If he plays well, he must be a relative of mine. If he plays badly, he isn't!”

For more on the world's best young ballers, follow NXGN on Instagram and TikTok.