Angel Correa: Atletico's star in the making who conquered tragedy and heart surgery
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: March 9, 1995
- Place of birth: Rosario (Argentina)
- Height: 5ft 8in
- Position: Forward
- Club: Atletico Madrid (14 apps, 2 goals)
- Former club(s): San Lorenzo
- International: Argentina (3 caps, 1 goal)
Argentine Angel Correa's story is an inspiring one. Brought up in one of Rosario’s most deprived areas, a young Angel was aware his streets were flooded with drugs and crime. However, his only drug was that of effort and a willingness to keep on improving.
By the age of 12, he had already suffered two immense tragedies: the death of his father and brother. Nevertheless, that didn't shatter his dream of becoming a professional footballer, so he moved to Buenos Aires to play for San Lorenzo’s youth ranks. Things went well; Correa appeared in the 2011 youth championship and finally made his debut at 18 in the Argentine Primera Division under the management of Juan Antonio Pizzi, who would later lead Valencia.
The next season, the young tricky player surprised everyone by contributing significantly as the capital team won the title. In May 2014, the then-19-year-old agreed to sign for Atlético Madrid, although the deal wasn't made official until December, when he transferred for £6 million. But during his Colchoneros medical it was discovered that the Argentine had a heart tumour, and he subsequently underwent microsurgery in New York.
The operation was successful, and despite a hugely difficult period, Correa was back in action six months later at the South American youth championship. There, he helped Argentina to win the title and was named player of the tournament. Discussing his operation and recovery, the youngster said: “When I had the heart operation I was not afraid. I said to myself ‘I am with anaesthesia, if I wake up then good, but if I don’t then it’s my time’.”
In August 2015 he made his official Atlético Madrid debut, and a few weeks later the 20-year-old pulled on his national team's shirt for the first time.
Why you need to know him
When I had the heart operation I was not afraid, I said to myself ‘I am with anaesthesia, if I wake up then good, but if I don’t, then it’s my time'
Atlético are well known for consistently bringing through world-class strikers; Christian Vieri, Fernando Torres, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Sergio Agüero, Diego Forlan, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa to name some of the players that Atleti fans have been able to enjoy in recent times.
However, this season Diego Siemone has more at his disposal up front. Jackson Martinez, Torres, Antoine Griezmann, Luciano Vietto are Yannick Ferreira Carrasco are vying for contention, but Correa has been among those having the biggest impact. The young Argentine has only contributed two goals and an assist so far, but has already won over Rojiblancos fans who appreciate his nifty footwork and exciting style.
The Rosarino has a low centre of gravity, which makes him a very difficult player to defend against. He also possesses excellent technique, speed and something very important to any good attacking player: a great first touch.
However, his key attribute that sometimes goes under the radar is his mental strength. The difficult issues Correa has faced throughout his life have turned him into someone who never gives up. His work rate and unceasing tenacity are clear.
The most obvious weakness is his lack of height, at just 5ft 8in, and as such isn't a player likely to get on the end of set-pieces. The other big weakness comes again from his physicality – even though his low centre of gravity makes him an elusive attacker, it also means that he can struggle against physically powerful opposition.
Tata Martino, the Argentina manager, holds Correa in very high regard. He said: "Correa is impressive. I see a guy who has no fear, who does what he feels.
"Calling him into the squad is very exciting. Sometimes it’s confusing where he’s playing. He’s a player with a half-defined position. I’m not that interested in where he plays. He has the capacity for goals and he’s another option already."
Did you know?
His professional debut with San Lorenzo was against Rosario-based Newell’s Old Boys, who he has always supported.
What happens next?
He is ready. Everything that is happening to him is not a coincidence. He’s courageous, he’s not scared of anything and he has new heart, as well as being a fantastic player.
Atlético chief Simeone has liked what he's seen from his young attacker so far. "He is ready," declared El Cholo. "Everything that is happening to him is not a coincidence. He’s courageous, he’s not scared of anything and he has new heart, as well as being a fantastic player."
Simeone's men are enjoying an exciting season, even if they squandered the chance to top La Liga last time out against Malaga. They remain second ahead of city rivals Real Madrid, however, and have the quality to go far in the Champions League. On the other side of the world, Argentina have started World Cup qualifying inauspiciously and need to start winning matches soon to avoid the risk of missing out in Russia. Correa will surely play a big part.