Why Man Utd, Chelsea and Real Madrid are in River Plate contact for Lucas Ocampos

His first team career is barely five months old, but Lucas Ocampos already has the pick of the game's biggest clubs should he decide to leave River Plate.
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His first team career is barely five months old, but Lucas Ocampos already has the pick of the game's biggest clubs should he decide to leave River Plate.

Likened to Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, the 17 year-old, 6ft winger is the subject of intense interest from Chelsea this week, while media sources in Buenos Aries declared Manchester United and Real Madrid held talks with River before Christmas and assured them offers will arrive for Ocampos in 2012.

Currently sitting second in Argentina's Second Division, River president Daniel Passarella had insisted Ocampos would not be sold until they had returned to the top-flight. But the addition of David Trezeguet has changed his thinking and Passarella was in Europe only last week to hold talks with pursuing clubs. Interestingly, he was at the FIFA gala awards, where United manager Sir Alex Ferguson collected his career achievement gong.

Daniel Mancusi, a director at River, admits they're now ready to sell Ocampos: "There's been bids, but we've turned them down. If we get an offer to our liking, we'll consider it."

It's only been in the last six months that Ocampos' profile has exploded.

Identified as a junior with Quilmes, the winger was taken by River 18 months ago with little protest and didn't get near the senior squad until last year's preseason. It was the former Inter Milan and Parma star Matias Almeyda, now coach of River, who recognised Ocampos' talent and fast-tracked him into his first team for this season.

A centre-forward with River's youth team, Almeyda has since converted Ocampos into a left-sided winger and seen him thrive in his new position.

"Ocampos is a star, he can be the future of River," declared Almeyda before handing the teen his debut against Chacarita Juniors. A week later Ocampos already had his first senior goal and soon the world's biggest clubs were on the phone to Passarella asking him to name his price.

Scouts liken Ocampos to Real Madrid star Angel di Maria, who came through at Newell's Old Boys before being signed by Benfica.

"He's a fighter and is constantly in the game," one observer told tribalfootball.com. "He's always tracking back to help his defence. He has good technique and is a great dribbler. The raw pace he has is often too much for the fullbacks he's so far faced this season. It's very similar to Di Maria. He can pop up anywhere, but does his best work on the left of midfield."

In need of money and with Trezeguet now leading the line, Passarella is actively courting buyers for Ocampos, with £8 million a jumping off point for negotiations.

River need to get maximum return, with Quilmes due 15 per cent of any sell-on fee and a consortium which own part of his registration due 35 per cent.

Chelsea made their move last week, but in United and Real Madrid's favour is that Ocampos is a self-confessed Ronaldo fan. Real would be confident if it came down to choice, as Ocampos' agent, Pablo Sabbag, has stronger links to Spanish football than the Premier League.

But money talks - especially if you're Passarella. Not only does he need to cover the loss from their shock relegation last season, but he's also promised River fans should Ocampos be sold a top-line replacement will arrive - with Internacional's former River favourite Andres D'Alessandro already nominated.

Chelsea, Manchester United or Real Madrid. For Ocampos, any move will be a whirlwind. But having become one of only four ever presents for River in this his debut season, you expect this 17 year-old to handle any big money transfer with similar ease.

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