Next Lionel Messi emerges from the womb

Football’s obsession with youth shows no sign of abating any time soon and with the value of promising young players always on the rise, the search for the next young prodigy is becoming more ever more competitive.

The latest youngster to step into the spotlight is a promising Argentine footballer, Claudio Nancufil, who plays for the Martin Guemes club in the ski resort of Bariloche.

“As soon as he started to play (aged four) he was already different from all the rest of his playmates with regards to technique,” club president Marcelo Ernalz said.

“How he takes the ball stuck to his foot, brakes, stops, kicks, scores, shoots on goal, from when he was little he had all these distinct qualities,” said Ernalz.

So far so good, but the most distinctive thing about Nancufil, talented though he is, is not his football prowess, but his age. He is only 8 years-old (yes eight!), but has already been monitored by the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. There has even been talk of the boy going to Spain for trials in the New Year, according to the Madrid newspaper El Confidencial.

Ernalz told Reuters that Spaniard Manuel Otero, manager of Barcelona-based PR agency Suenos Comunicaciones, visited the Nancufil family when he heard of Claudio’s talent and offered to represent them.

“After the Christmas holidays, ‘Claudito’ (little Claudio) will go to try out with these three Spanish teams and then we’ll see what each of them offers us,” said Otero, whose agency normally has actors and musicians on its books.

Interest in the player is not confined to Spain, with several Argentine clubs also interested in signing him.

“We’ve had an invitation from River Plate for him to train for a week with them,” Otero added in a report in El Confidencial.

“(The family) are not closing any doors and England could also be a great destination for the player.”

Premier League sides Manchester United and Chelsea are reportedly interested in Nancufil, who is set to be involved in a documentary on Argentine football.

“The BBC is preparing documentaries in the run-up to the World Cup in Brazil and with Argentina they want to unite the past, present and future,” Otero said.

“For this, they plan to bring together Diego Armando Maradona, Lionel Messi and Claudio Nancufil and with the participation of (World Cup-winning coaches Cesar Luis) Menotti and (Carlos) Bilardo.”

Such were the similarities in playing style with Messi that Nancufil has already been dubbed “Messi of the snows”.

Leaving aside for a moment the ethics of monitoring the performances of an 8-year-old, the similarities with Messi, as you can see from this compilation, are uncanny.