Lautaro Martinez urged to seize chance to join Barcelona

Diego Cocca recognised a special talent in Lautaro Martinez early on and now wants the forward to link up with Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez   -  Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has been urged to jump at the chance to join Barcelona by his former coach at Racing, Diego Cocca.

Martinez, 22, is widely viewed as Barca's prime target as a long-term replacement for striker Luis Suarez, who turned 33 in January and is only contracted until next year.

Barca is said to be keen to strike a deal for Martinez at a much lower cost than his reported €111million release clause, with the Catalans rumoured to be prepared to sell Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Samuel Umtiti to raise funds or include one or two of those players as part of their offer to Inter.

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Despite the potential obstacles in such a deal, Cocca, now coach of Rosario Central, is in no doubt that Martinez should take the opportunity to play alongside compatriot Lionel Messi.

Recalling a youngster with such a high level of professionalism when he handed him his debut as a teenager in November 2015, Cocca told Sport: "I was surprised.

"The level of maturity, he was a professional player, he interpreted, he understood, he wanted to see pictures, to work on his weaker foot, to work on everything that made things complicated for him.

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"Most boys at that age try to hide their flaws, and he just wanted to improve. There, we started to glimpse that he was going to do something very important.

"Knowing Lautaro, he's a boy who likes challenges and surely that's what going to Barcelona would be for him.

"I tell you what I think: logically, Lautaro is the protagonist and he has the last word. He's clearly at a very important team like Inter, but it doesn't happen every day that Barca come looking for you and he can play with the best footballer in history, outside of the national team, and share all these days with him.

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"There is no way I would pass that up."

Martinez has scored 11 goals in 22 Serie A appearances this season, having formed a formidable strike partnership with Romelu Lukaku.

Antonio Conte's side was third in the table, nine points behind leader Juventus but with a game in hand, when the competition was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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