When Juan Manuel Iturbe burst onto the scene for Cerro Porteno in Paraguay, the local media dubbed the then-16-year-old the "New Messi." It's a silly tag—not least because, at the time, the "Old" Messi was just 22—but it's a clear indication of the immediate impression the young forward made. He was destined for big things.
Five years on, those big things are still to come. A move to Porto grabbed plenty of headlines but little else, and when Iturbe failed to make an impact at the Estadio do Dragao, he was sent on loan to River Plate before being sold to Hellas Verona in 2013.
It was hardly an exciting move for a player who'd been hyped so much, but the switch to the Mastini seems to have put his development back on track. After a successful season in Serie A, some of the biggest clubs in Europe are once again taking notice of the player that Argentines call La Pulguita ("the Little Flea").
Liverpool, Read Madrid and Juventus are just some of the clubs reportedly looking at Iturbe for next season, with Juve rumoured to have stolen a march on their rivals with a €21 million bid for the 21-year-old, per the Express' Joe Short.
If a bidding war starts, it's likely that the Bianconeri could pay considerably more for Iturbe, but he's exactly the kind of young, exciting signing manager Antonio Conte will want to make ahead of the new campaign.
Yet even if the Argentine cannot fulfil his potential and turn those occasional flashes of brilliance we've seen of him in Verona into regular genius, it could still be a bargain for the Turin giants.
Iturbe was a regular under Andrea Mandorlini last term, making 33 appearances and contributing eight goals and four assists. Those are stellar numbers, but he's still raw, and if Conte can add polish to his game there's no telling how valuable he could be to Juve.
Goals against Fiorentina—both home and away—and Napoli prove that he's able to score against tough opposition, and while it's true that he drifted in and out of other encounters, inconsistency is hardly something to worry too much about in a player so young.
Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the deal will be closer to €25 million, which would still be considerably cheaper than Alexis Sanchez, who was Juve's original first choice to line up alongside Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez next term.
After a stunning World Cup and a botched bid earlier in the year, it won't be easy for Juventus to bag Sanchez.
The 25-year-old Chilean is unsure as to whether or not he wants to leave Barcelona but is being offered as part of the Catalans' deal with Liverpool for Luis Suarez, according to The Guardian's Andy Hunter. Per Metro, he's also among Arsenal's top targets, so Juve will have competition for his signature.
Sanchez is the more experienced player and already a finished product. But Iturbe is a precocious talent, and after having such success getting the best out of Paul Pogba, Conte might be tempted to take a crack at unlocking the tricky winger's true virtuosity.
He represents a gamble, but one that could have huge returns, and for a club that's known for shrewd transfer dealings, that could be more than enough reason to bring him to Turin.
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