Robinho Lazaró and his young Colombian superstars paraded the Liga BetPlay Finalización trophy through the streets of Envigado as they celebrated the club’s first-ever piece of silverware with their adoring fans. The club’s young stars had done the unthinkable and won the league playoffs in the second half of the 2024 campaign.
That success also saw Envigado qualify for Copa Libertadores for the second time, fresh from qualifying for the second round in what was a truly historic 2024 season.
For the second summer in a row, Envigado’s oldest player departed as 26-year-old centre-back Santiago Norena, who had less than 12 months on his contract, joined LA Galaxy for £1.3m. That took Envigado’s bank balance past £10m for the first time and left Lazaró with a squad average age of just 19. 11 of the 25-man squad are teenagers, 22 of them are 21 or younger and 21 of those players have at least 4.5-star potential.
That doesn’t include the mass of talent in the under-20s squad, which was added to by a third stellar youth intake. The pick of this intake was attacking midfielder Ronaldo Bermudez, along with three further 5-star potential talents in striker Álvaro Pena, midfielder José María Romero and right-back Ubaldo Venecia. As a result, the youth team now has 23 players with at least 4.5-star potential and 14 of those have 5-star potential!
Lazaró was sticking with his 4-3-3 formation that had worked so nicely through his first three seasons. Marcelo Guzmán is now firmly the first-choice striker with 4-star ability compared to Diego Rodríguez’s 3.5-stars and he looks like a really special 17-year-old. New captain Juan Manuel Zapata and midfielder Josep Mejía, who’s now the best player at the club, remain the crucial pieces that make this team tick.
First-Ever Súperliga Final
Envigado’s Finalización title sent them into their first Súperliga BetPlay Dimayor Final against Apertura winners and bogey side Tolima. Ludicrously, but absolutely typical of Colombian football, the two-legged final was forced into the early Apertura fixtures with two days off between matches. The first leg saw Envigado at home and Rodríguez’s late penalty earned a 1-1 draw from a tight game.
Lazaró had to rotate for the return leg but they did well to hold Tolima to another 1-1 draw, largely thanks to 12 saves from Felipe Parra! So, for the second time in a few months, the two teams went to penalties. And again it was Envigado who held their nerve with Parra the fitting hero with two penalty saves.
Envigado FC won their first-ever Súperliga BetPlay Dimayor!!
Liga BetPlay Apertura Season 4 Kicks Off
Envigado are now predicted to finish ninth with odds of 50/1 to win Liga BetPlay Dimayor. While Guzmán and Parra are included in the media’s dream 11.
They began Apertura with a tough test at Nacional, who won the Finalización league last season. But their star strikers delivered as Guzmán scored the opener then Rodríguez nicked a late winner, with both goals created by 6ft 5in winger Diego Betancourth.
Envigado’s first chance to celebrate their maiden title at Polideportivo Sur came against Pasto. And they did so in style with a 3-1 win, which Zapata started with an early strike before Guzmán and Mejía wrapped up all three points. But they hit new levels at Bogotá as, despite going 1-0 down after 30 seconds, Guzmán bagged a hat-trick and Betancourth scored two and made another in a 7-2 away victory.
That set Envigado up for a great start, which continued by beating Junior 2-1 and Guzmán scoring both in a 2-0 win at Deportivo Cali. Lazaró had to fully rotate for Tolima at home, which came three days after the Súperliga success, and another young starlet stepped up as striker Jhoao Trivino’s hat-trick inspired an exceptional 4-3 win. But the unbeaten start ended as a rotated side lost 2-0 at home to rivals Águilas Doradas.
Lazaró marked 200 games in charge of Envigado – in nearly three-and-a-half seasons! – with a pretty tame 0-0 at home to Cúcuta. And he was getting concerned that match overload was starting to catch up with the team. But Rodríguez returned to form by bagging a hat-trick and creating the other for Mejía in a 4-2 win over Cortuluá, in which last season’s intake star midfielder Jafe Ostos impressed on his debut.
They suffered their annual defeat at Millonarios but recovered with an easy 2-0 win over bottom-side Petrolera. Ostos scored his first career goal to nick a 2-2 at Once Caldas before a disappointing 3-1 loss at Patriotas. Nevertheless, Envigado had managed to hold onto top spot and led surprise package Cúcuta by four points and Millonarios by six points with five games remaining.
A massively rotated side drew 0-0 at Cartagena before a terrible 3-0 defeat at home to América. But they recovered thanks to a Guzmán double to win 3-0 at Pereira, which left them two points clear with two games to go. Guzmán was the hero again as he scored the only goal to down Once Caldas 1-0 while Cúcuta and América drew, which handed first place to Envigado! Lazaró threw in the kids for the final game at Santa Fe and they still won 2-1 with Trivino scoring again.
That saw them eventually finish a comfortable seven points clear of América with easily the lowest league-winning points total so far in this save. 17-year-old Guzmán was second-top scorer with 13 in 17 and got the highest average rating of 7.37 – what a player this kid is!
Copa Libertadores Group Stage
Envigado were in Pot 2 this time, which saw them drawn alongside holders Botafogo, Ecuadorian side Emelec and a qualifier that turned out to be Venezuelan team Deportivo Táchira.
Their campaign began in Ecuador, where they absolutely destroyed Emelec with a club record 6-0 victory led by a Guzmán hat-trick! They backed that up with a 2-0 win at home to Táchira with goals by Mejía and winger Felipe Toro. Possibly the most high-profile game in Envigado history saw the South American champions visit Polideportivo Sur as Botafogo came to town. Could they win? Nope, Botafogo thumped them 4-1, with a brace from former Man UFC left-back Alex Telles and a goal from their £26m striker, then beat them 3-0 in Brazil.
But with two games remaining, Envigado were four points clear of both Táchira and Emelec. Their qualification hopes took a blow with a 3-1 defeat in at Táchira. But they booked their place in the knockouts by defeating Emelec 2-0 with a Betancourth strike and homegrown centre-back Heidy Juliao’s first-ever goal.
Envigado got a tough-looking post-season group of Millonarios, Nacional and Cartagena. They started it well by thrashing Cartagena 4-0 led by a Guzmán brace and Mejía and Juliao goals but the squad would be tested by some ridiculous scheduling. they claimed a surprise 4-0 win at Millonarios then two days later Toro’s goal nicked a 1-1 at home to Millonarios.
The first team got a few days off as Lazaró threw the youth team into a two-legged cup tie that was crazily scheduled in the middle of the post-season! And that helped them nick a 1-0 win at Nacional thanks to Toro’s late strike, which moved them six points clear with two games to play. Another two days later they welcomed Nacional to town and a fully rotated side lost 1-0. The final game took them to Cartagena and a Guzmán double ensured they topped Group A.
This time there was no final against Tolima, but only because they lost to in-form Independiente on the final day of Group B. The team was absolutely exhausted but Lazaró decided to go with his strongest available 11 for the away first leg. But it didn’t work as they got dominated and lost 3-1. They couldn’t get going at home and eventually lost 1-0 to a late goal, so Independiente claimed the Apertura title.
Massive Youth Promise At Envigado
The poster boy of Envigado’s youth development efforts is Guzmán, who’s already bagged 23 goals in 29 games this season. And he only celebrated his 18th birthday three days before the Apertura Final second leg! Wingers Luis Ángel Díaz and Toro have impressed, with the former getting 10 assists and the latter eight goals and six assists, while Mejía has seven goals and nine assists.
Juliao joined Guzmán on the NxGn 2025 list, with Guzmán in 25th and Juliao 34th and the award won by 18-year-old Endrick. And the youth excellence is highlighted by Envigado topping talent production in Liga BetPlay Dimayor.
How will Lazaró’s young team get on in the second half of the 2025 campaign? Join us on Friday to find out!
Leave a Reply