KEY POINTS

  • Thiago Almada is being called the 'next Lionel Messi'
  • The likes of Man Utd and Arsenal are keen on signing the striker
  • Even Serie A's Inter Milan have shown an interest in the 19-year-old

Premier League rivals, Manchester United and Arsenal, are reportedly competing to sign Argentina’s Thiago Almada, who is considered to be the “next Lionel Messi” ahead of the summer transfer market.

Almada, who currently plays for the Argentinean club, Vélez Sarsfield, made his senior team debut in 2018. While he has scored seven goals in 37 appearances for the club, he is yet to make his debut for Argentina's national team led by Messi.

When Diego Maradona retired, several players in Argentina such as Ariel Ortega, Juan Roman Riquelme, Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola were tipped to become the "next Maradona." However, the players came and went but they never managed to get close to the achievements of "El Diez". Then, a short lad arrived in the picture, who suddenly had the attention of the soccer world for his brilliant individual performances that allowed the managers to form their teams around him – Messi.

For the last decade or so, Messi’s feats have been compared to Maradona’s greatness in debates to determine who the better of the two is. While Maradona has a World Cup triumph on his CV, Messi has not won anything significant with Argentina. However, that still cannot overshadow the sheer amount of success he has tasted on the club level that has earned him with a record six Ballon d’Or awards, one more than arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Argentina would finally have a player who is expected to emulate Messi at a higher level – Almada, who hails from Fuerte Apache, one of the most rundown towns in greater Buenos Aires and, formerly, the home to Carlos Tevez, another talented Argentinean soccer player.

Almada began his soccer career at Santa Clara, the same local club that saw Tevez take his first steps into the sport. It’s not surprising that Almada’s childhood hero was Tevez but his game is much more similar to that of Messi.

Being around two inches taller than Messi at 5ft 7in., Almada also has an impressive dribbling ability that allows him to escape with the ball from the tightest of spaces, just like the Argentinean captain.

Last season, Manchester City were ready to offer $12m to sign Almada. It is understood that the deal broke off when Velez demanded around $20m and were able to keep the striker at the club. Last September, Almada signed a four-year contract at Velez that has labeled the 19-year-old with a transfer fee of $26m.

According to Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo, Almada has been heavily linked with a move to either Arsenal or Man Utd, while the Italian side, Inter Milan have also shown an interest in the teenager ahead of the upcoming transfer window.