CHERRIES are close to finalising a deal for exciting winger Juan Iturbe – the man dubbed the new Lionel Messi.

The Dorset outfit are believed to have held talks with Iturbe and his Italian club Roma regarding an initial loan move to Vitality Stadium.

Iturbe has drawn comparisons with Barcelona star Messi due to similarities with his fellow Argentinean who he has faced twice in this season’s Champions League.

The 22-year-old helped Roma finish second in their group behind the holders, making six appearances as they set up a last-16 clash with Real Madrid next year.

But it seems Iturbe is apparently willing to turn his back on the Champions League in favour of joining Cherries’ bid to preserve their Premier League status.

Reports in Italy suggested Iturbe had been on the verge of signing for Cherries’ top-flight rivals Watford after the clubs had agreed a €1.5m loan fee with an option to buy for €18m.

It was said Iturbe had held discussions with Watford officials yesterday and had a medical ahead of linking up with the Hornets.

But it was then reported that Watford had withdrawn their offer having refused to become embroiled in a bidding war after Cherries had registered their interest in the player.

It was claimed Cherries had been close to finalising a £1.1m fee with Roma to sign Iturbe on loan for the remainder of the season with provision to make the move permanent in the summer for £16m.

Iturbe, who has also been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, joined Roma from Italian rivals Verona in a deal rising to €24.5m in July 2014.

He penned a five-year contract – until June 2019 – reputedly worth around €1.5m a year in wages. Reports in Italy claim Cherries are prepared to pay him €2.3m plus €700,000 in bonuses, subject to them staying in the Premier League.

There are even suggestions Iturbe will be given his own chauffeur, personal translator and flights to South America.

Reports claiming Iturbe was tonight undergoing a medical in Bournemouth are understood to be premature, although he is thought to be on boss Eddie Howe’s wish list and a deal could be imminent.

Iturbe, who joined Porto when he was 18 and had a loan spell at River Plate, was raised in Paraguay and began his international career in their youth ranks.

However, following a fall-out with the country’s management, he switched allegiances to Argentina and has been capped 13 times at under-20 level.

Iturbe would not be eligible to play for Cherries in the Premier League until after the transfer window had reopened next month. Any move would also be subject to the player gaining a work permit and receiving international clearance.