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Why Real Madrid, Chelsea and Man Utd are chasing Empoli defender Daniele Rugani

Scouted by Chelsea and Manchester United. Admired by Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. And called into the Italy squad for the first time. The profile of Daniele Rugani has exploded over the past fortnight.

But while the Empoli defender's emergence appears sudden and unexpected across Europe, Italian football authorities were unsurprised that Azzurri coach Antonio Conte called Rugani into his squad this week.

The assured centre-half, so comfortable alongside more experienced teammates, has been rewarded for a superb start to the season. Excellent results against AC Milan (2-2) and Palermo (3-0) came in no small way thanks to Rugani's performances - played in front of scouts from Chelsea, United and Real.

Empoli coach Maurizio Sarri says of his young prospect: "He has a mind more mature than his age. He's a great professional and this is bringing out all his quality."

For Conte, the 21 year-old has been a personal project since spotting him playing in the 'Nereo Rocco' tournament over three years ago.

And the then Juventus coach did not hesitate, demanding his club sign the 17 year-old on the spot. Rugani was taken on extended loan and immediately added to Juve's youth team. Less than two years later he was making his first team debut in the Supercoppa against Napoli.

Last year, with his two-year loan up for renewal, Conte pushed Juve to sign Rugani permanently and he was taken in co-ownership with Empoli before the beginning of the season. He went straight into the Empoli first team and soon scored his first senor goal against Cesena. A mainstay of the defence, Rugani played 40 games to help his club win promotion to Serie A.

This season, his reputation has grown and now Juve's hold on Rugani could be under threat with representatives from Real, Chelsea and United regulars at the Stadio Carlo Castellani.

His agent, Davide Torchia, admits the Real rumours have taken him by surprise, but is confident the speculation won't unsettle the defender.

"We were a bit struck by these developments," Torchia began, before laughing: "Juve, the national team, Real ... what else is coming?

"All jokes aside, these are just reports, if you do well as a player, then these reports increase, your profile grows.

"But we care about reality, the guy has to work hard, take one step at time and we're not going to try to think about joining Real or not joining Real."

As Torchia confirms, Juve retain first refusal on Rugani thanks to their co-ownership agreement.

"He's in partnership between Juventus and Empoli.

"Juventus have expressed an interest (in taking him back). But I do not know if he wants to return to Turin."

Ability apart, what appeals to interested clubs, as mentioned by Sarri, is Rugani's maturity.

Regarded as a "great worker", Rugani is settled with long time girlfriend, pro tennis player Maria Masini, and is focused only on his football. As he suggests when discussing his first Azzurri call-up, it was more about the experience of working with his country's best players than any push for that first cap.

"It 's been a wonderful experience, for me it is an honor to be here," he said last week.

"To get to this level and learn from my teammates is an incredible opportunity."

If any interested European giant are to tempt Rugani away from Serie A, they face not only overcoming Juve's co-ownership, but also the desire of the player, himself. Among Rugani's short-term ambitions is to play alongside his hero, Andrea Barzagli, having modeled his game on the Juve and former Bayern Munich centre-half.

For the moment, Bianconeri fans can rest easy.

 For the big stories and the banter follow us on Twitter: @tribalfootball

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