Manchester City leading European giants in race for 'the next Lionel Messi': report

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City before the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City and Rb Leipzig at Etihad Stadium on November 28, 2023 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Manchester City are reportedly hopeful of beating the likes of Real Madrid and PSG to the signature of Argentina wonderkid Claudio Echeverri.

The 17-year-old River Plate attacking midfield starlet has already been dubbed 'the next Lionel Messi' – and his stock rose considerably thanks to his performances at the recent U17 World Cup in Indonesia. 

Barcelona and Juventus are also said to be keeping tabs on Echeverri – who has already been a champion of Argentina with River, where he signed his first professional contract aged just 16.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - JULY 1: Claudio Echeverri of River Plate looks on prior a match between Barracas Central and River Plate as part of Liga Profesional 2023 at Estadio Claudio "Chiqui" Tapia on July 1, 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

Claudio Echeverri has made four first-team appearances for River Plate (Image credit: Getty Images)

However, according to the Mirror, City might have an edge over those other European giants: they relationship they fostered with River through signing Julian Alvarez.

Alvarez joined Pep Guardiola's men for £14m in January last year but remained on loan in Buenos Aires until the summer – before making a near-immediate impact at the Etihad Stadium and going on to star in Argentina's 2022 World Cup triumph.

Echeverri currently has a release clause of around £21m – although that rises to around £25m within 10 days of the end of any transfer window (the January transfer window closes on 1 February).

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 24: Claudio Echeverri of Argentina celebrates after scoring the team's third goal and hat trick during FIFA U-17 World Cup Quarterfinal match between Argentina and Brazil at Jakarta International Stadium on November 24, 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Echeverri has scored 12 goals in 18 games for Argentina U17 (Image credit: Getty Images)

River are thought to be scrambling to double the value of that clause, though (not that £42m would come anywhere near the highest fee City have ever paid for a player).

Echeverri really caught the eye when his hat-trick saw Argentina beat arch-rivals Brazil in the quarter-finals of the U17 World Cup.

He finished the tournament – where the Argentines came fourth, losing to Mali in the third place play-off – with five goals in total; only River teammate Agustin Ruberto scored more.

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