ON his way to the Premier League, Alexis Mac Allister faces the most important 90 minutes of his young career.
The 20 year old Argentine attacking midfielder is currently at Boca Juniors, after starting out at Argentinos Juniors.
3 Alexis Mac Allister has starred for Boca Juniors on loan from BrightonCredit: AP:Associated Press
That is a career path that was also trodden by a certain Diego Maradona.
But their paths are soon to diverge. Maradona’s next move was to Barcelona.
Mac Allister is heading to Brighton, who picked him up at the start of the year for a reported £8million, loaning him back to Argentinos for the first six months of 2019, and then on to Boca.
The Buenos Aires giants in blue and yellow are tonight away to historic city rivals River Plate in the first leg of the semi final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League.
This is a huge match.
The century old rivalry between these two clubs is one of the fiercest and most dramatic on the planet, and the stakes have been raised even further by their controversial meeting in last year’s final, when crowd trouble in Argentina forced the second leg to be switched to Spain, where River won 3-1.
A KEY PLAYER
Boca, then, are gunning for revenge, and Mac Allister is one of their key weapons.
He made an immediate impact for his current club.
His Boca debut came at the end of July, away in the Libertadores to Athletico Paranaense of Brazil, who boasted a 100% home record in the competition, including a 3-0 drubbing of Boca in the group stage.
But now, in the knock out round, when it really counted, Boca came good, and Mac Allister ghosted forward to fire home the only goal of the night from the edge of the penalty area.
He was equally impressive in the next away game, this time in the quarter final against former Manchester United star Antonio Valencia and his LDU side at the altitude of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
This time Boca tweaked their formation.
In a four-man midfield, Mac Allister has been operating wide on the left.
3 Tonight Mac Allister will play for Boca Juniors against River Plate in the Copa LibertadoresCredit: AFP or licensors
This time they played five across the midfield, which allowed him to come infield, a role that probably suits him best.
HE'S A PLAYMAKER
Mac Allister is a slight figure who is not blessed with exceptional pace.
But he strikes the ball well, has excellent vision and enjoys bursting into the box.
In Ecuador he ran the game from his central role, sliding through a magnificent pass to set up the all important opening goal in a fine 3-0 win.
But now comes the semi final against River – the famous ‘super-classico.’
It is a match that can make or break reputations – and for proof, Mac Allister need only ask his father.
DAD PLAYED TOO
He is from a footballing family, and lined up for Argentinos alongside two of his brothers, one of whom is also now at Boca.
Their dad is Carlos Mac Allister, who as a little red-headed figure used to be Boca’s left back.
3 Last summer Brighton bought Mac Allister for £8mCredit: AP:Associated Press
LATEST FOOTBALL FEATURESRON TO A WINNER Arsenal starlet Saka, 18, compared to Ronaldo and set for Carabao Cup bow TALE OF THE TAPE Man Utd's weakened predicted team STILL costs more than Arsenal's side Spurred Chance Tottenham's failed wonderkids include likes of Bostock, Lancaster & Dervitte Small Fry Roma's Smalling started in non-league, married a page 3 girl and turned vegan Peter Fan Meet Rochdale star Thomas, 15, forced to change away from team-mates against Utd MATH'S EXAM Rochdale hero Matheson, 16, sits psychology exam today hours after Man Utd goal FAUST SHOW Chelsea starlet Faustino Anjorin idolises Lampard but was named after Asprilla DIV-INE INSPIRATION How Liverpool's Divock Origi cursed Spurs, Barca, Everton & Sunderland
He was in the running to go to the 1994 World Cup. But in the build up he had a terrible afternoon against River.
He came off a bad second best against the enormously talented Ariel Ortega, and was dropped from the national team.
Alexis, meanwhile, has just broken into the Argentina squad.
He made his debut three weeks ago, coming off the bench in a 0-0 draw against Chile.
He then started against Mexico, where he helped the team storm into a 4-0 lead before giving way to Roberto Pereyra of Watford.
Come January the pair of them will be Premier League opponents.
But for now there will be nothing else on the mind of Alexis Mac Allister apart from the match between Boca Juniors and River Plate.