Man City eyeing ‘the next Lionel Messi’ as bargain release clause sparks panic

Manchester City are reportedly monitoring Argentine wonderkid Claudio Echeverri. The teenager has drawn comparisons to seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, and his stock is on the rise after a superb showing for the Albiceleste at the Under-17s World Cup this month.

Echeverri’s heroics at the tournament included a hat-trick against Brazil in the quarter-finals, a goal against Venezuela in the last 16 and two more against Japan in the group stages.

Only his team-mate Agustin Roberto scored more, with Argentina taking fourth spot after being eliminated by Germany and beaten by Mali in the third-place play-off. According to The Mirror, City were watching closely throughout the tournament with a view to bringing Echeverri to the Etihad Stadium.

The attacking midfielder, who has made four senior appearances for Argentine giants River Plate, is believed to have a release clause worth just over £21million in his contract.

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Such a sum could represent fantastic value if Echeverri kicks on and reaches his full potential. The release clause reportedly increases to £26m if the bid arrives within 10 days of a transfer window closing, although River Plate are thought to be scrambling to up the stakes.

In a panicked bid to eke extra cash from City’s mega-rich owners, the club are attempting to renegotiate Echeverri’s contract in a move which would roughly double his asking price.

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The Sky Blues are hopeful that they can capitalise on a healthy working relationship with River Plate, having brought in their young academy graduate Julian Alvarez last January. And they may need all the advantages they can get; with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan all believed to be keen on Echeverri.

The 17-year-old plays primarily in attacking midfield and his potency around the penalty area has brought him 12 goals in 18 appearances for Argentina’s Under-17s.

Not only has Echeverri been compared to Messi, he could also follow in his footsteps by joining Barca, providing they can stump up enough cash to bring him to the Camp Nou.

“As well as River, I would like to play for Barca,” he said in November. “I’m a big fan of Messi and I used to watch him play for Barcelona, so I’ve had this team inside me since I was very young.”

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