Dario Sarmiento: The ‘next Lionel Messi’ Manchester City want with the OG

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Manchester City haven’t even landed Lionel Messi yet, but reports suggest they’re already eyeing up a move for his Argentinian protege, too.

The race for Messi’s signature remains very much on. The past few days have seen Manchester City become firm frontrunners, with the Citizens reportedly set to offer the world’s best player a mega-money contract.

For now, the Barcelona star remains deadlocked in talks with his club. Barca argue the clause in Messi’s contract, which states he can terminate his employment with the club, has expired, and therefore anyone who wants to sign him has to pay the player’s €700million release clause.

It is still unknown whether Barcelona would be willing to negotiate on a reduced fee for Messi’s services, but the noise coming out of most media outlets suggest City are growing in confidence that they can get a deal over the line. 

But Messi isn’t the only Argentinian winger on City’s radar. Estudiantes wonderkid, Dario Sarmiento, has this week been linked with a move to the Etihad as the club stepped up its interest in the teenager.

Who is Dario Sarmiento?

Sarmiento, 17, only has a handful of senior appearances to his name, but he’s already got fans out of their seats, coaches waxing lyrical and Sheffield United Estudiantes legend Alejandro Sabella literally kneeling before him. Not bad.

Speaking about Sabella’s gesture to ESPN, Sarmiento said: “He came and asked me if I was Sarmiento, I said yes and he knelt down. He said I was going to be a star, but I need to be calm and live in the present.”

Sarmiento was born a mere 30 kilometres outside of La Plata — the city where Estudiantes reside — and has been part of the club’s academy since he was six years old.

Ten years on from joining, the winger was making his senior bow, becoming the second youngest player in Estudiantes’ history to represent the club. 

Then-manager and former Barcelona defender Gabriel Milito was convinced of the talent at his disposal and even blocked Sarmiento from representing Argentina at the Under-17 World Cup so he could focus on his first-team duties with the club.

Milito resigned earlier this year, but the faith in Sarmiento’s ability stretches well beyond the manager. Former Manchester United and Chelsea star and club president Juan Sebastian Veron – who once came out of retirement at the age of 42 in an attempt to flog VIP boxes at the club – is a big admirer of the teenager, but he too has stressed the importance of Sarmiento remaining humble and knuckling down.

Sarmiento’s playing style

Playing on the right wing, with a wand of a left foot, great close control and a penchant for cutting inside, Sarmiento has inevitably been likened to his fellow countryman and global superstar, Lionel Messi.

Sarmiento shot to fame after pulling off an outrageous double nutmeg against Deportivo Laferrere prior to the football season being postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, and his name hasn’t left the papers since. 

Standing at just five-foot-six, the winger’s low centre of gravity allows him to weave in and out of challenges while giving off the impression the ball is somehow glued to his foot.

South American football expert Tim Vickery recently told Sky Sports: “You look at him and you see a mini Messi. Lovely vision, he’s got the ball tied to his left foot, the dribbling skills, he can see the pass…”

Sarmiento only has eight first-team appearances under his belt but his technique, skill and vision has already put every top European club on red alert. In the meantime, the player himself is taking Estudiantes’ advice, and keeping his feet firmly grounded.

Man City’s interest

City have been keen on creating a clear pathway for their youth prospects for some time now. Phil Foden aside, young players at the club have notoriously struggled to break into the first-team set-up, with many opting to leave rather than wait around. Just ask Jadon Sancho.

The recent capture of Valencia’s Ferran Torres, however, demonstrated the club’s ambition to reduce the average age of their squad, and signing Sarmiento would certainly go a long way to ensuring they don’t have to fork out millions on a winger in years to come.

That said, City’s relentless pursuit of Messi rages on. Signing Messi is a once in a lifetime opportunity, though, and with Pep Guardiola desperate to win the Champions League before he departs England, it’s a move the club will do everything in their power to make a reality.

It remains to be seen whether City signing Messi would have any impact on their interest in Sarmiento. One would imagine the attraction of playing under Messi’s tutelage would be of huge interest to the youngster.

Whether City ultimately manage to pull off the Messi transfer or not, signing Sarmiento could well turn out to be the best piece of business any club does over the next decade. Remember the name. 

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