Near enough every season since his emergence, there’s been a poor soul dubbed football’s ‘next Lionel Messi’. But this time, Argentina might actually have found the heir to his throne.
Already donning the number 10 shirt for La Albiceleste, rounding defenders and goalkeepers like it’s nobody’s business and scoring improbable goals that you can only simply scratch your head at, the latest in a long line of players called the ‘next Messi’ has taken the under-17 World Cup by storm.
And crucially, he’s become the first Argentine since Messi himself back in 2012 to score a hat-trick against arch-rivals Brazil.
Claudio ‘Diablito’ Echeverri already has the world at his feet and he’s not even old enough to buy himself a copy of the new Call of Duty. But when you’re ripping it up for River Plate, owning the U17 World Cup and putting the world’s eyes on you, a copy of Call of Duty probably isn’t all that important.
While he might not be able to rack up ridiculous killstreaks and land quickscopes that would send YouTube into frenzy back in 2010, Echeverri has demonstrated exquisite talent in other areas.
He’s probably not even old enough to know what a quickscope is, which is almost as sickening as his ability on the ball.
Born in Resistencia, the largest city in Argentina’s Chaco province, Echeverri signed for River Plate in 2016 aged 11 and has been nurturing a wicked potential ever since, alongside fellow Argentine prospect Agustin Ruberto – another teen destined for greatness.
The pair are now ripping it up for club and country, and while Ruberto can’t stop scoring, there’s something about Echeverri which screams lynchpin.
Captaining the young Argentina side out in Indonesia at the World Cup, Echeverri leads in several ways, but it’s his mesmeric dribbling and ball-carrying from the top of the midfield and behind the striker which is currently firing his nation forward.
Dubbed ‘El Diablito’ meaning ‘little devil’, Echeverri earned the nickname after he drew comparisons to Bolivian footballer Marco Etcheverry, who was nicknamed ‘El Diablo’ for a number of similarities, from surname to devilish dribbling and shooting.
Naturally, though, Echeverri draws his inspiration from football’s greatest and his own countryman, as every budding Argentine footballer would.
The difference is that watching Echeverri sends a shiver down your spine. Armband on, number 10 on the back, twisting defenders inside out and feinting goalkeepers, he’s able to do the extraordinary things that Messi has made a career of at a frighteningly young age – and Brazil felt the full force of it.
Claudio Echeverri vs Brasil.pic.twitter.com/wZo6hNEdXT
— Santiago (@Santice_) November 24, 2023
Bloody hell. He’s made a Hall of Fame performance look absurdly routine. The kid has got it.
Along with an absolutely ridiculous hat-trick that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Messi goal catalogue, Echeverri punched in 7/10 completed dribbles, 14/15 completed passes, seven crosses and 11 successful duels.
All action is a mighty understatement. Against his nation’s oldest foes, El Diablito stepped up and showed Brazil what it felt like to dance with the devil.
River Plate are currently responsible for perhaps the most promising young duo not just in Argentine football, but world football – but after Echeverri’s performances at the U17 World Cup, they might struggle to keep that duo together.
This is only the very beginning for the young playmaker. But it’s clear he has all the tools to step up and write his own script with the immortalised number 10 shirt of Argentina.
By Mitch Wilks