By Stefan Coerts | Dutch Football Editor
At the tender age of 18 and with only two Eredivisie appearances under his belt, Giorgi 'Gio' Chanturia is already one of the most talked about players in The Netherlands. The Georgia Under-21 starlet hasn't wasted any time in breaking into the first team at Vitesse since officially joining the club this summer and he has been the standout performer in the opening weeks of the 2011-12 season.
The attacker is a product of the Saburtalo youth academy in his homeland and attracted immediate attention from Europe's top clubs when he emerged on the scene, joining Spanish titans Barcelona on a one-year loan deal at the age of 16. He was integrated in the Catalans' Juvenil B squad and netted 11 goals to help his team to the league title.
Barcelona consequently attempted to make Chanturia's stay at the club permanent, but the transfer never materialised. He had no reasons to worry about his future, however, as there was plenty of interest from elsewhere. Premier League side Chelsea were one of the leading candidates to sign him, but a lack of an EU-passport complicated matters.
|CAREER STATISTICS | Giorgi Chanturia (Vitesse & Georgia)
Attributes: Pace, dribbling, technique
A solution was quickly found though as Eredivisie outfit Vitesse offered Chanturia the opportunity to continue his career in Holland. Club owner Merab Jordania is not only a compatriot of the attacker, but has an excellent relationship with Chelsea supremo Roman Abramovich. By joining Vitesse, Gio gained a good chance of getting regular first team action, while the Londonders can still keep a close eye on him.
Chanturia started training with Vitesse in September 2010 and finally signed a three-year deal with the Arnhem side when he turned 18 in April 2011. Some three months later, he scored four goals in Vitesse's first friendly match of 2011-12 against Arnhemse Boys to announce himself to the Dutch footballing world.
His superb performances in the remainder of the club's pre-season convinced head coach John van den Brom that Chanturia added something to the team that they lacked before and the winger was unsurprisingly included in the starting XI for Vitesse's Eredivisie opening day draw against ADO Den Haag.
|"Emulating a player of Messi's quality is pretty much impossible, but the 18-year-old Chanturia has all the necessary characteristics to become a true great."
Although Gio was unable to fire his side to victory, he still managed to make the headlines with some superb individual contributions and received a warm welcome from the club's fans. Chanturia continued to impress in the 4-0 win over VVV on matchday two and the Georgian wonderkid had more luck in front of the goal this time around as he found the net with a well placed left-footed shot after cutting inside from the right.
His dazzling start has quickly earned Chanturia the nickname 'The Georgian Lionel Messi' and the similarities between the pair are clear to see. Like the illustrious Argentine, the Vitesse starlet has a sweet left foot and his ball control is impeccable, too. His history at the Camp Nou club and his position on the pitch only make the comparisons with Messi more applicable.
Although Chanturia obviously has a long way to go, there seems to be little doubt that he has a bright future ahead of him. Emulating a player of Messi's quality is pretty much impossible, but the 18-year-old has all the necessary characteristics to become a true great. It will be crucial for the Georgian youngster to keep his feet on the ground; however, it looks like the Eredivisie has unearthed yet another true gem only months after the departure of stars like Luis Suarez, Ibrahim Afellay and Balazs Dzsudzsak.
Want to see more of Chanturia? Vitesse's league game at home against Utrecht on Saturday evening (18:45 CET) can be seen live at www.livedutcheredivisie.tv.
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