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Why Juventus Target Ricardo Centurion Is Argentina's New Di Maria

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Why Juventus Target Ricardo Centurion Is Argentina's New Di Maria
(photo courtesy of racingclub.com.ar)

Squint your eyes a little and the lanky winger zipping past defenders down the left for Racing Club could be Real Madrid and Argentina stalwart Angel Di Maria.

It is, in fact, 20-year-old wing sensation Ricardo Centurion, who has been wowing pundits for just over a year in Argentina's top flight.

Centurion certainly has a similar body shape, playing style and skill set to Di Maria, the player he is most often likened to by the Argentine press.

Little wonder, then, that the youngster has been linked with both AC Milan (il Vero Milanista), Inter (Tuttosport) and, most recently, Juventus.

Having debuted toward the end of the 2012 Clausura, "Wachiturro" (a nickname he was given due to his resemblance to the members of an Argentine teen band) made a name for himself in his home country with some sensational performances in the 2012/13 Inicial and Final Championships. 

Racing manager Luis Zubeldia explained to Argentine sports daily Ole why Centurion stood out as a junior.

Ricky got my attention because of his great coverage of the pitch and his intensity, which is rare for an attacking player.

Centurion will run 80 meters for you the entire 95 minutes of the match...

It really stood out to me how fast he plays. I'm not talking about the athletic side of things but the way he can beat his man after performing a step-over.

The Argentina U-20 international dazzles with the ball at his feet, demonstrating exceptional footwork, confidence and imagination when he takes on defenders.

He is still raw, however, and has by no means reached Di Maria's levels of consistent effectiveness. He has a tendency, for example, to run full tilt at the byline as he roars past opponents, leaving him very little time and space to cut the ball back to a waiting teammate. 

There have also been questions raised about his character, which has some of his potential suitors concerned, as mentioned by Rzouki in the Tweet above.

Centurion is from one of Buenos Aires' notorious "villas," or ghetto neighborhoods, where a life of crime is a path frequently traveled down by disaffected youths. This photo, which circulated in the Argentine press, had some commentators worried that Centurion may have been associated with some unsavory characters before earning a contract with Racing.

In his defense, his conduct since becoming a first-team player has seemingly been nothing but professional.

European clubs would do well to allow Centurion to develop as a footballer and earn experience for another 12 months at least in the Argentine league before snapping him up.

However, in today's frantic transfer market, the luxury of monitoring a player for several seasons, especially one with such obvious natural gifts, is becoming a thing of the past.

The likes of Juventus and Milan will realize if they don't sign Centurion this summer, someone else is likely to beat them to the chase.

One hopes that if he does make the move to Europe at this early stage of his career, he gets the support he needs to grow into the tremendous player he promises to become.

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