FC Porto can be relied upon to strike gold from South America with stunning regularity. Juan Iturbe, one of the Portuguese side’s stars-in-the-making, is having a career-defining season on loan at Serie A side Hellas Verona after initially struggling to adapt to the European game.
It’s natural for young Argentineans to be compared to their nation’s best. Comparisons to modern great Lionel Messi haven’t escaped Iturbe, who’s position on the right of Verona’s attack make it all the more easier to see traits of the Barcelona man in his young, wonderfully unpredictable compatriot.
Iturbe, a playmaker by trade, has seen his game adapt to suit the demands of Verona coach Andrea Mandolini. Iturbe and current Napoli midfielder Jorginho flanked veteran forward Luca Toni for much of the first half of the season, only for the young Brazilian to be swept away by Rafa Benitez to the San Paolo in January.
It was this attacking triumvirate that has helped the recently promoted side to sit comfortably in eighth place in the league, and while Toni’s 20 goal haul for the season thus far will do little to disguise the age of the big man, it will more than likely ensure a bidding war for Iturbe come the end of the season.
Liverpool, Tottenham and a number of Serie A clubs are said to be interested in the 20-year-old. Porto, thought to have washed their hands with the youngster, may be about to receive a huge profit on their €4 million investment.
Liverpool’s interest in Iturbe makes sense. Brendan Rodgers has shown himself to be a lover of players with versatility and the intelligence to adapt to different roles. If he doesn’t buy them, he’ll make them. Iturbe, a wide player in Italy who naturally drifts inside – as they all do – would fit in well in Liverpool’s explosive, attacking system.
Iturbe would add depth to Liverpool’s forward line, but he’s proving to be much more than a player whose sole purpose is to add to the numbers. Few youngsters in Italy have performed as well as he this season. He’s a goal threat as well as offering up chances for prolific striker Toni. Liverpool’s loss at home to Chelsea last weekend showed that they could really do with a player able to find Luis Suarez in and around the opposition penalty area. Creative depth for Rodgers is a must going into next season.
But in an attempt to curb the excitement, Iturbe is only 20 with just one season of promise in European football. Though by comparison, Coutinho’s best spell in Europe came during a half-season loan at Espanyol. Prior and even after, Inter Milan deemed him expendable. It’s possible Liverpool could strike it lucky for the second time with a brilliant South American talent.