South America has long been a hot spot for scouts of European clubs and with some of the world's most exciting players residing in countries such as Argentina and Brazil, it comes as no surprise there is such high demand. In modern times Neymar Jr has made the most successful transition from a South American club to Europe's elite. But going back in time, legends such as Ronaldinho, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo, and Kaka have all made the move across continents.
Fast forward to 2024 and a new crop of exciting talent from South America are emerging on European shores. One of those who might have gone under the radar somewhat after joining Southampton in January 2023 is Carlos Alcaraz. However, teammates and club staff are all well aware of Alcaraz's talent with the Argentine having made an impressive start to life in England.
The 21-year-old joined from Racing Club in Argentina last January at a time when Southampton were in desperate need of a central midfielder. Thankfully for Saints and their survival hopes, through the transfer platform TransferRoom, they were able to sign Alcaraz just a week into the window.
TransferRoom are a network who work almost as a middle man between clubs and agents. Over 700 professional clubs rely on their services. In regard to the Alcaraz deal, the Argentine's agent Sebastian Lopez believes the transfer was able to be agreed so efficiently due to TransferRooms platform.
Speaking to TransferRoom, he said: “In Carlos's case it was a direct contact and an express deal as it was closed within a week. Our player portfolio on TransferRoom was important as the club had already done scouting and analysis on the player. Once this was done, they got in contact with me on the platform and had a meeting where we finalised the deal."
Sam Stanton is the Head of Sporting Operations at the Saints, and he echoed Lopez's thoughts on the speed of the deal and how important TransferRoom's platform is for the club.
He said: “The deal was done really quickly. It was obviously time-precious; being in January you want to get things over the line and the club at the time needed a player in his position. So yeah, being able to use a system which helps smooth the transition I think is really important as well."
Santon continued to explain why Southampton use TransferRoom, saying it is: “because it's just instant access to people we need to speak to.
“We want to get deals done on certain players in places like South America where getting hold of agents can be a little bit more difficult because of the language. But having a platform where we can access this type of information has been invaluable to us."
Put simply – without TransferRoom, a deal like this involving two clubs from different continents who speak two different languages would be extremely difficult and would take much longer than one week to negotiate. Alcaraz's long-term agent Lopez explains further how the platform makes life easier for both agents and clubs.
He said: “The good thing about being a verified agent on TransferRoom is that the clubs treat us as the verified agent of a player. The platform allows us to verify and confirm the player belongs to our agency. It is also important for us in a negotiation scenario with clubs. In this way, the biggest clubs in the world can find our agency and our portfolio of players included in the platform and based on each club's interest, they can find us and begin negotiations."
Santon also believes this easily accessible information is invaluable: “Yeah you can trust the information. That's the big thing for me. I don't want to be picking up the phone and speaking to someone who puts you on to someone else. Being able to speak to the person away that you need to get the deal done, for me is brilliant.
“It cuts out a lot of time and the deal could be potentially lost in that time. Because another club could come in, pay more. So be actually able to speak to the right person, I think is really important."
He has continued to play and perform well regularly in the Championship, especially coming into a rich vein of form in recent weeks.
He admits he is living the dream in England having played against some of the world's best players.
He said: “It has been a year full of positive emotions because making the jump to the Premier league and playing against the best teams and the best players is amazing. One day you're playing those teams on PlayStation and the next day I had to go play against them. That's one of the amazing things in football."
Despite having the ambition of playing back in the Premier League, Alcaraz hopes to do it with Southampton and a fanbase who he wants to repay for their support. With his almost cheeky smile, he said: “We had the bad luck of being relegated and now we're in the Championship, but [I have} the same desire as when I arrived to go back into the Premier League.
“My targets are the same as from June onwards, to [return to] the Premier League with Southampton as soon as possible. I really want to continue being here, I feel really good in the club and would love to give back to everyone the love I receive from them."
Santon revealed that Alcaraz was a player their scouting network had been looking at closely for a while and the club were already interested in signing him. And whilst TransferRoom made the club's top transfer target possible, it has been Alcaraz's impressive adaptation to English football that has made the deal (so far) a resounding success.
It remains to be seen if promotion pushing Southampton will complete an immediate return to the Premier League. However the campaign finishes though, the career of Alcaraz is one to keep a close eye on.