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The 20-year-old, rated the best defensive midfielder in his homeland and widely expected to challenge for a place in Alejandro Sabella's World Cup squad, will join this summer

By Liam Twomey

Manchester City have beaten Barcelona and Manchester United to the signing of Racing Club defensive midfield starlet Bruno Zuculini, Goal understands.

The 20-year-old Argentine, tipped by many to break into Alejandro Sabella's squad ahead of next summer's World Cup in Brazil, will join for a fee of £1.5 million at the end of the season.

It is understood that Barcelona and United also made approaches for Zuculini but City's director of football Txiki Begiristain had already moved quickly to complete the deal last summer.

THE VIEW FROM ARGENTINA

Martin Seldes | Chief Editor, Goal Argentina

Bruno Zuculini played his first game in Argentina's First Division at only 16 in 2010. Following in the footsteps of his brother Franco, Zuculini demonstrated in just a few games his ability to move around the pitch, as well as his dynamism.

Even though his natural position is central midfield, he has also played on the flanks and even in defence on occasions. Once he had claimed his place in the starting XI, Bruno also started showing his offensive ability, and scored plenty of goals.

Besides his abilities as a player, Zuculini is also recognised as being a responsible professional. In a team full of young players well known for their frequent visits to different night clubs, Zuculini stayed clear from that group and became the link between the experienced players, the coach and the youngsters.

In other words, if Manchester City splash out just £1.5 million for Zuculini, it will be one of the best bargains of recent years.
Zuculini was then allowed to spend this season with Racing, whose ongoing financial problems prevented them from holding out for a higher transfer fee.

But the youngster, whose older brother Franco is also a defensive midfielder for Spanish side Zaragoza, will complete his move to the Etihad Stadium next summer.

A work permit will not be a stumbling block due to the fact that Zuculini already holds an Italian passport.

The capture of Zuculini is yet another sign of the shift in City's transfer strategy towards securing the world's best developing talent, as highlighted by Goal last week.

Zacharias Faour, a 15-year-old Swedish striker dubbed the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will join City's elite development squad when the transfer window opens in January in a £1m deal.

City have also won the race for Nigerian wonderkid Kelechi Iheanacho, star of last summer's Under-17 World Cup, and Malaga sensation Brahim Abdelkader, dubbed 'the new Messi'.

Zuculini, however, will go straight into City's first-team squad where he will compete with the likes of Fernandinho, Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell to claim the holding midfield role alongside Yaya Toure.

The midfielder has made over 70 appearances in three years for Racing and was included in the Argentina  squad for the 2011 South American Under-20 Championship as a 17-year-old.

Begiristain's success in acquiring Zuculini may well further heighten tensions with his former club Barcelona, who were also very confident of landing Brahim before City hijacked the deal.

For Manchester United, meanwhile, Zuculini must be added to the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Ander Herrera on the increasingly embarrassing list of midfield targets who got away.

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