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As the diminutive Paraguayan-Argentine teenager is courted by the biggest clubs in world football, Daniel Edwards reveals Iturbe's meteoric yet rocky rise to stardom...

Even for a country accustomed to talking about the next big thing in world football, the hype and furore that has surrounded the ascendancy of Juan Manuel Iturbe has taken Argentina by surprise.

The 17-year-old wonderkid, currently playing in Paraguay for Cerro Porteno, enjoyed a wonderful campaign in the South American Under-20 Championships but even before the tournament had been under close watch from across the Atlantic, and although the forward has agreed to sign for Porto in June it is rumoured that big guns from England and Spain are interested in hijacking the deal. Goal.com tells you everything you need to know about one of the hottest prospects coming out of South America today...

- Juan Manuel Iturbe Arevalos was born in Buenos Aires to Paraguayan parents, who moved back to Asuncion shortly after his birth. Despite this, under Argentine immigration law, he qualifies as a dual national, as common to many countries with a history of immigration, a child born on Argentine soil immediately becomes a citizen.

Vital Statistics
Name Juan Manuel Iturbe
DOB 4th June 1993 (17)
POB Buenos Aires
Height 1.69m (5' 6")
Foot Left
- He started his career with current club Cerro Porteno and made his debut at just 16 years old, as well as starring for the youth ranks of the Paraguay national team. It was in early 2010 however that things started to get complicated.

- Angered that he was not receiving a first team contract to complement his first team status, Iturbe and his parents abandoned Cerro and Paraguay and were warmly received by Argentine officials, who even took him along to South Africa to provide 'sparring' for the Argentine national team, including one Lionel Messi.


- The comparisons between Messi and Iturbe started long before his move to Argentina, as in Asuncion he was already being dubbed the 'Guarani Lionel Messi'. Following his star turn in the U20s, the Argentine press dubbed him 'La Pulguita' in deference to the Barcelona star, a mere 23 years old himself.

- Although exaggerated, there are undeniable similarities between the two players. Both are diminutive playmakers who create as much as they define in the final third, and who rely on a low centre of gravity and impeccable control to leave players for dead over any scintillating speed or skill. Watch Iturbe guard the ball as players swarm and you cannot help but think of 'La Pulga' in action, and the stocky Paraguayan has more strength on the ball than the Barca talisman as a teenager.

- The wranglings between 'La Pulguita' and Cerro restricted his playing chances in 2010, as a contract with Argentine club Quilmes was declared null and void, at a stroke disqualifying him from first team action. It was the teenager's performances in Peru, where he netted three times - including a Messi-esque effort running in from the halfway line against Chile - which served to enhance his reputation further in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Argentina.

- It appears that the youngster's national allegiance is now decided. After the tournament and a subsequent return to Paraguay, Iturbe affirmed that his future lay with the Albiceleste, bucking a recent trend where Argentine-born Jonathan Santana, Nestor Ortigoza and Lucas Barrios all plumped for the Guarani.



- Despite the messy dispute between club and player, on returning to Cerro Porteno in February Iturbe affirmed that he remained a die-hard fan of the Olla; and sought to prove his allegiance by kissing the club badge after netting in his side's 5-2 demolition of Colo Colo, his first game back at the club.

- Forbidden from signing a contract with any club but Cerro until his 18th birthday in June, Iturbe
Competitive Record (as at 9/3/2011)
Team Appearances Goals
Cerro Porteno        11    3
Argentina U20         9    3
has nevertheless already verbally agreed to join Portuguese giants and renowned nurturers of South American talent Porto. His future may not be as clear as that however; Manchester United have reportedly tried to hijack the deal by convincing Porto to give up their claim in exchange for a season loan, while Real Madrid have also been linked with the youngster.                                                     
                                                 
- For now though 'La Pulguita' is 100 per cent committed to his boyhood idols Cerro, and after a short period acting as an impact sub he is now a first choice player in Paraguay's biggest club. Quizzed recently he told press "if I could stay in Cerro for a year I would do it without a doubt", although it is safe to say that his future come June lies across the Atlantic Ocean, exactly where though remains to be seen.

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