Argentine eight-year-old Messi lookalike makes headlines

Argentine eight-year-old Messi lookalike makes headlines
Claudio Nancufil (right) fights for the ball at the Martin Guemes club in the Patagonian Argentine city of Bariloche

BUENOS AIRES - An Argentine eight-year-old prodigy from the southern Andes who could be mistaken as a clone of Lionel Messi may soon be taking the same road to football glory as the Barcelona ace.

Claudio Nancufil, small for his age, has become a media sensation since emerging as an unusual talent at the modest 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, who also trains one of the age group teams at his club.

Spanish giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have shown interest and the boy could go 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 (dreams communications), visited the Nancufil family in Bariloche 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.

Big Argentine clubs are also interested.

"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, set to be part of a documentary on Argentine football.

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