Man City have another world-class talent on their hands - but only if they learn from Cole Palmer mistakes

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An on-loan Manchester City star is shining in Argentina - but they need to make sure they get this one right.

It isn’t easy breaking into Manchester City’s first team. For all of his many qualities as a manager, Pep Guardiola has seldom shown much willingness to give academy products many minutes on the field at the Etihad, and Phil Foden remains the only player to complete the transition from the youth teams to the starting line-up. Given how good Cole Palmer has been at Chelsea since being jettisoned by City last summer, one wonders how much talent they might miss out in if they don’t make the path into the matchday squad a little easier.

But for all the seller’s regret City might be feeling after seeing Palmer practically running the Chelsea attack by himself for large parts of the season, at least he isn’t the only startlingly talented youngster they have coming through. Rico Lewis and Oscar Bobb are both on the fringes of the first team already – and are full internationals for their respective countries – but there may well be another player now on the books who could have an even bigger impact if City and Guardiola get his development right.

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In January, City spent a reported £12.5m plus add-ons to buy 18-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder Claudio Echeverri from River Plate before loaning him back for the remainder of the year. And judging by the way he’s started the new season in his home country, City will want to fast-track him as far and as fast as Guardiola is willing to permit.

Standing 5’7” tall in his studded boots, Echeverri is nicknamed ‘El Diablito’ – ‘The Little Devil’ – both for his short stature, his dribbling skills and as a play on the nickname of Bolivia legend Marco 'El Diablo' Etcheverry, who was similarly quick, similarly hard to tackle and had an equally powerful strike as well as being a near-namesake. But watching him play, there’s at least as much of a resemblance to Foden in the way he runs quickly at defenders with the ball glued to his feet.

He has a similar sort of dribbling style to Foden too, hunched slightly over the ball as he motors past tackles with pace and deftness. It’s his ball-carrying skills which have caught the eye the most so far, and he’s left many far more experienced defenders for dead in the Argentinian domestic game already, but his game is well-rounded.

He’s a goalscorer, recently bagging a brilliant first goal for River in a game against Gimnasia after he hared into the penalty area, slalomed past a defender who was completely befuddled by a flick of the feet and lashed the ball into the roof of the net on the angle with his favoured right foot. For a small man, he can generate some hugely impressive power with his shots. And while that might have been his first professional goal, he's also rattled in 12 goals in 20 matches for Argentina's Under-17s, including a hat-trick in the World Cup against Brazil.

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And his passing isn’t shabby, either. He’s got the knack of spotting his target and getting the ball out quickly and of playing people into space, all of which makes him even more difficult to defend because it’s impossible to know whether he’ll run or pass, and he’ll make his decision at lightning speed. That amount of technique and that degree of alacrity in his play makes him a huge prospect.

He's not the finished article, of course, and he often has to use his dancing feet to dig himself out of trouble thanks to a slightly leaden first touch which means he doesn’t have the instantaneous control of a player like his idol, Lionel Messi, but given the degree of technique he has and the speed of his development, you wouldn’t bet against him adding that to his arsenal down the line. He looks like one hell of a player.

City will need to take care of him and make sure he has the opportunities he needs in a way they ultimately failed to do with Palmer. With the Chelsea man, they did half of the job, training him up to have all the quality he needed to succeed but never letting him get enough of a chance to impress in the senior squad. Leaving Echeverri on loan at River was probably a smart move in that regard. By the time he finally makes the trip to Manchester, he should have his first full season of top-level football under his belt.

Not that his inexperience has prevented him from playing exceptionally well in the early stages of the Argentine season. As well as the goal against Gimnasia, he has already picked up a couple of assists, including one in a 2-1 Supercopa win over Estudiantes. The Argentine campaign is young, but Echeverri looks like he’s as good as anyone in the country right now.

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City need to get this one right. If Echeverri spends a few years getting little more than the occasional cameo from the bench or EFL Cup outing, then he’s unlikely to live up to his stellar potential. But if Guardiola can offer him the opportunities, he has the skill set to go far. And the attitude – he first made a name for himself after scoring nine goals in a six-game youth tournament in Italy before complaining to the media that his team’s final position of third wasn’t good enough. He was 11 years old.

One can’t fault the young man’s determination – but one can fault the lack of a clear pathway for City’s academy players. Given how much they’ve invested in bringing some of the best young talent in the game to the Etihad Campus over the last few years, they’re going to need to learn the Cole Palmer lesson quickly, otherwise they will have wasted a lot of money, and potentially the talent of supremely gifted players. Echeverri, you would think, is too good to be allowed to go to waste.

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