THE buzz around Shola Shoretire extended far beyond Old Trafford.
The Manchester United wonderkid, 17, was being courted by the likes of European giants Barcelona and Juventus before he signed his first professional deal.
Shola Shoretire has signed a professional deal with Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty Images – Getty
There was talk last year that the promising youngster had already signed a pre-contract to turn professional with the club when he was just 16.
His rapid ascension through the youth ranks has got some Old Trafford big-wigs purring that the Nigerian-born star could be the answer to the club’s problems out wide after missing out on Jadon Sancho.
The skilful attacker’s game has also been compared to African football legend Jay-Jay Okocha, who graced Premier League pitches with Bolton Wanderers in the early 2000s.
WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
The diminutive teen, comfortable with both feet, can play out wide and through the middle.
It’s testament to his ability that United are already confident he has the ability to succeed at the highest level by eyeing him for a deal before he turned 17.
Shoretire, pronounced Shor-ay-ti-reh, joined Manchester United’s youth set up at the age of nine from Newcastle, and has blossomed since his arrival.
In last season’s FA Youth Cup, he fired United into the semi-final scoring at Old Trafford in the 2-1 defeat of Wigan Athletic.
Incredibly, earlier that day he was studying for his GCSEs at school.
“He was at school today, all day! Then he came over to Old Trafford to play,” Under-18 coach Neil Ryan revealed.
“It’s incredible really. Different day for him compared to other players.”
Shoretire is one of a number of promising United youngsters coming through the ranksCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Blessed with quick feet, Shoretire has been likened to Jay-Jay OkochaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
UEFA YOUTH LEAGUE HISTORY
Shoretire appeared at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland at the age of 13 in 2017. And in 2019 he made history.
Aged just 14 years and 314 days he came on as a sub in United’s 2-1 win over Valencia, and became the youngest player to appear in the UEFA Youth League – a competition reserved for Under-19 teams.
“We want to keep them humble, hard-working,” Ryan explained.
“It’s not just the coaching staff who do that, there are a number of staff throughout the academy, right throughout the place, feeding the same messages. It’s what we pride ourselves on.
“When you see the professionalism of the likes of Marcus Rashford, he’s the shining example. Scott McTominay, so on. These boys are products of the academy and the staff who work with them. They are our examples.
“Good players can enjoy the big stage. [Shoretire] is a really exciting player. He’s evolving and developing, can play a number of different positions, he showed a great maturity I thought.”
In 2019 Shoretire made history as the youngest ever Uefa Youth League playerCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Shoretire was born in NigeriaCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Shoretire celebrates scoring at Old Trafford in the FA Youth Cup against WiganCredit: Getty Images – Getty
NIGERIA OR ENGLAND?
With the stage set, Shoretire has a good chance in joining first teamers Rashford and McTominay if he plays his cards right – with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer alerted to his ability.
And then, surely, international honours could follow.
Although he was born in Africa, Shoretire has been invited to join England’s youth set-up in the past.
At the age of 16, with the world at its feet, decisions on who he could represent can wait for now.
But his first step is to conquer United.