Éder Álvarez Balanta
|Full name||Éder Fabián Álvarez Balanta|
|Date of birth||28 February 1993|
|Place of birth||Bogotá, Colombia|
|Height||1.82 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in)|
|Playing position||Centre back|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 28 May 2017.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 15 November 2016
Éder Fabián Álvarez Balanta (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈeðeɾ ˈalβaɾes]; born 28 February 1993) is a Colombian footballer who plays as a centre back for FC Basel in the Swiss Super League. His overall versatile capabilities have led him to be likened as one of the more promising young defenders from South America, earning praise even from Europe. River Plate former coach Ramón Díaz has compared Álvarez Balanta's talents to that of 1970s legend Daniel Passarella.
Álvarez Balanta was born in Bogotá, where he signed with the now dissolved club Academia in 2010 (who later became Llaneros). After a successful youth run winning various titles, he attracted the scouts of River Plate. Prior to his move to the Argentinean giants, Balanta was never able to represent the Colombian national youth squads due to vast injuries.
In early 2011, Álvarez Balanta was tested in the youth division of the Argentinean Club and passed the trials and became a sub with the youth squad. In 2012, he was becoming more of a regular which led to an eventual championship victory in the 2012 U-20 Copa Libertadores. Due to his success with the youth team and impressive talent, he moved into the senior squad officially in 2013.
Álvarez Balanta made his debut with the senior squad against Racing Club. In just his third league match, he scored his first goal against Godoy Cruz. Álvarez Balanta scored yet another goal in his very next match, this time against Quilmes Atlético Club. He played his first Superclásico derby match against River Plate's fierce rivals, Boca Juniors. He played a huge part countering and cancelling the attacking plays in a fierce game that ended 1–1. Interestingly, Inter Milan reportedly made a bid for the young Colombian after just five league appearances. River Plate set a €12 million price tag. During a match against All Boys, Álvarez Balanta tore his internal obturador muscle resulting in a two-week absence on the pitch.
In July 2013, Álvarez Balanta officially signed his first senior contract with the club on a three-year term deal with a $30 million release clause.
In September 2013, it was reported that Barcelona had taken interest in Álvarez Balanta, and they plan to watch the player to evaluate his development. It was also mentioned that Álvarez Balanta could possibly be a successor to Barça's aging defender Carles Puyol, but that River Plate would require €50 million in any transfer deal. Weeks later, however, River Plate brought down his release clause to €15 million.
On 19 February 2015, Álvarez Balanta made his debut in the 2015 Copa Libertadores against Bolivian club San José in which River Plate lost 0–2. On 12 March 2015, Balanta scored his first goal in the Copa Libertadores in 1–1 draw against Juan Aurich of Peru.
On 14 July 2016, Swiss club Basel announced that they had signed Álvarez Balanta on a four-year contract lasting till 30 June 2020. He made his first team league debut on 24 July in the 3–0 home win against Sion.
Álvarez Balanta attracted the attention of the Colombian Football Federation in May 2013 during his time with River Plate. He was called to be part of the U-20 squad for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. Due to injuries and the factor that he had yet to sign his first professional contract, River Plate stated that they would not allow him to partake with the national youth squad if he does not meet with his youth contract before signing a senior contract. In June, 2013, it was confirmed that River Plate would not allow him to take part in the U-20 World Cup.
On 7 November 2013, Álvarez Balanta received his first senior call-up to play friendlies against Belgium and the Netherlands. On his second call-up, Álvarez Balanta made his international debut, coming in at the 65th minute in a friendly against Tunisia.
Playing style and praise
Álvarez Balanta has been highlighted with top praise in Argentina. Since debuting in top-tier Argentinean football, Álvarez Balanta has been deemed as the "best defender" in the league, earning that title within half of his debuting season. Compared to other Colombian legends, he has been referenced for Jorge Bermúdez's hierarchy while having speed and agility to that of Iván Córdoba, all while also carrying wonderful strength and balance. Thus, he is often credited as a complete center-back. Left-footed, Álvarez Balanta has shown that he can play with his right as well. These talents had even made former River Plate coach Ramón Díaz, compare Álvarez Balanta's talents to that of legendary Daniel Passarella.
In response to his sudden rise in popularity and praise, Álvarez Balanta has been shown to be quite modest:
"I am not as skillful as everyone thinks I am; I understand that people are excited for me and what I can do which is good, as it proves that I am on the right path and that my hard work is paying off. However, I am really just 'normal' and not a 'star', yet. People are often asking me when 'I will go to Barcelona' and it makes me feel uncomfortable because I am still young and learning. But the rumors that run around often make me feel as if my head will explode. It puts stress on my mind when I am trying to focus on River Plate and possibly get the chance to represent Colombia. It's a dream of mine to play for Colombia during a World Cup, but I cannot make it if I don't continue working hard."
- River Plate
- U-20 Copa Libertadores: 2012
- Argentine Primera División: Torneo Final 2014
- Copa Sudamericana: 2014
- Recopa Sudamericana: 2015
- Copa Libertadores: 2015
- FC Basel
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