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Matias Kranevitter: Why Man City, Atletico Madrid are fighting over the ex-golf caddy

Anyone aware of Matias Kranevitter's back-story would not begrudge the River Plate midfielder a life-changing move to Europe this summer.

The subject of an enquiry from Valencia before Christmas, it emerged last week that Manchester City had instructed Joan Patsy to organise a scouting brief for the 21 year-old. Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone also admitted his admiration for Kranevitter in the same week.

The River Plate youngster has been likened to Barcelona ace Javier Mascherano and is regarded among the best holding midfielders for his age anywhere in the world.

But such was his family's circumstances as a junior player, that Kranevitter had to quit his junior club for a time as they could not afford his registration fees.

"I played in San Martin, but there came a time when we could not pay the fees," he recalled. "In the end, I had to leave."

Matias was the oldest of six children his father, a local taxi driver, had to support. After leaving junior football, young Matias was able to work as a caddy for his uncle, Cesar Costilla, a local professional golfer, and his cousin, Andres Romero, who plays on the international circuit.

"I was paid 15 pesos. I gave 10 to my mother for food and I kept five for my things. I had to help at home and did so with great pride. We lived in a poor neighborhood."

Kranevitter admits with golf an influence in his family he could well have pursued that as a career.

"The golf courses were near my house. Having family members who are dedicated to that professionally, the atmosphere was not foreign to me. It was a job, yes, but I also liked it.

"If I had not dedicated myself to football, I would surely have been a golfer."

Breaking into the River first team under Ramon Diaz, it's been this season, under Marcelo Gallardo, that Kranevitter is now making a name for himself.

Playing in front of River's defence, Kranevitter is a first-choice for Gallardo, who has gone with the rookie ahead of Leonardo Ponzio.

"Leo treats me very well," insists Kranevitter. "He shares a lot of his knowledge with me. I've learned a lot from him. He's very humble and treats all the young players well."

Upon his appointment, Gallardo, the former PSG and AS Monaco star, identified Kranevitter as the player he wanted to build his midfield around.

"When he started, Gallardo would show me videos of (Andrea) Pirlo and (Sergi) Busquets. This is how he wanted me to play," revealed Kranevitter.

"I also study Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors). He is a great player with good technique. I respect him a lot."

On those comparisons with Mascherano, Kranevitter is keen to play them down.

"I am too young. It will take much to become like Mascherano. He's had an amazing career; I am just starting. I have to keep growing to make the jump to Europe and to play for the national team." He continued: "I did follow Mascherano as a boy, but now I follow Bastian Schweinsteiger, of Bayern Munich.

"I try to watch these players as much as possible. To learn from what they do.

"I watch how they control the ball, where they run, and also see how before receiving the ball they know where they are going to pass it."

The swatting is paying off, with Kranevitter's admirers growing fast.

Atletico director Miguel Angel Gil Marin was in Buenos Aries earlier this month for strategy talks with River officials, which included an enquiry about Kranevitter's situation.

The news had local reporters pressing Atletico's former River coach Simeone about his interest in the youngster.

"Kranevitter has been playing very well," commented Simeone last week. "He's showing he can succeed in a competition where it's not so easy to do so. He's improving.

"Everytime I watch River, I am impressed by him."

Atletico's approach came just months after Valencia had made an attempt for Kranevitter in the winter transfer window.

"I don't have any information about that," he says. "My mind is focused here.

"I know that in Spain they (Valencia) are regarded as a great club.

"However, my dream is to win titles, then move to Europe."

Now it's Manchester City which are making overtures. City's football chief, Txiki Begiristain, has told his point man in Argentina, Joan Patsy, to draw up a scouting report on Kranevitter. Patsy followed Begiristain from Barcelona to City and is now the English giants' main representative in Argentina.

Further fueling the prospect of a move this year was Kranevitter's agent Jose Luis Luraschi's decision to organise his European passport.

Luraschi traveled to Rome to complete the youngster's application before Christmas and later conceded that "we will listen to offers".

River are hopeful of keeping hold of their young midfielder for the Copa Libertadores campaign. And for his part, Kranevitter is reluctant to rock the boat.

He has a love for Argentine football and what it has given him and his family. But Kranevitter admits Europe also is on his mind.

"I hear a lot of criticism about Argentine football, but I like it, I watch it.

"Playing in this tournament, it's where I have to learn. And I watch a lot of football in general, I follow the Spanish Liga, the Italian and English."

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