Sources: Barça eyeing 17yo midfielder Echeverri

Barcelona are interested in River Plate midfielder Claudio Echeverri but face competition from some of Europe’s biggest clubs to land the teenager’s signature, sources have told ESPN.

Sources added that Echeverri, 17, is also being targeted by Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, although he has previously expressed a desire to join Barça.

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“As well as River, I would like to play for Barça,” he said before the under-17 World Cup in November. “I am a big [Lionel] Messi fan and I watched him play there, so they are a team I have followed since I was very young.”

Meanwhile, Barça coach Xavi Hernández said on Friday that the attacking midfielder is on his radar.

“The boy is a talent,” Xavi said in a news conference. “Beyond the hat-trick he scored against Brazil [at the U17 World Cup], he’s a difference-maker, but it’s something for the scouting department [to deal with].”

Echeverri’s release clause at River is around €25 million ($27.3m), although Barça’s intention is to negotiate paying the fee in various instalments due to their delicate financial situation.

He was one of the stars at the U17 World Cup played in Indonesia last month, although Barça, despite having tracked him for a while, did not have any scouts on location at the tournament for financial reasons, sources told ESPN.

River handed Echeverri his first team debut in June and he made an immediate impact, providing an assist in a 3-1 win over Instituto. He has made four appearances in total in the Argentine Primera División.

“He is really good,” a Barça source told ESPN. “He is a sensational dribbler and has magnificent quality.”

Echeverri forms part of Barça’s plans to sign some of the best talent from around the world, with Athlético Panaraense striker Vitor Roque due to join the club in January in a deal worth an initial €30m with another €31m due in potential add-ons.

Sources have also confirmed to ESPN the Catalan club are tracking young midfielder Lucas Bergvall, who plays for Djurgarden in his native Sweden.

Bergvall, 17, is viewed within the club as one of a several developing midfielders who could improve the team in the long-term.

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