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Manchester United wonderkid Shola Shoretire was released by Man City aged 10

Published on: 23 February 2021

Manchester United wonderkid Shola Shoretire could have been making his senior debut in the colours of rivals City, had it not been for a trial at Barcelona.

Sportsmail can reveal that City released the winger after they discovered he had trained with the Spanish giants while on a family holiday.

City's staff had concerns and, even though they liked the player, decided against keeping him in their academy. It could well be a decision they come to regret.

United signed the 10-year-old and, just days after his 17th birthday earlier this month, he agreed his first professional contract — said to be one of the biggest ever for a player of his age.

Barcelona had again made their interest known, as had Paris Saint-Germain.

His lucrative deal was followed by a first-team debut against hometown club Newcastle during Sunday's 3-1 win at Old Trafford, making him United's second youngest player in their Premier League history. For Newcastle and City, the sight of Shoretire emerging as United's latest academy graduate would have given rise to a feeling of 'What if?'

With a car engine running and its headlights illuminating a patch of grass in a public park in Whitley Bay, a boy of eight manipulates a football with a skill befitting a player twice his age.

That youngster was Shoretire, already training with Newcastle United's academy but, on the insistence of his dad Alex, also doing twice-weekly sessions with skills coach David Ballantyne.

'Shola's dad wanted to give him the best possible start, and it paid dividends,' says Ballantyne, who was working with Shoretire at Newcastle and his own Feet4Football enterprise.

'When he first came in at Newcastle, I just thought, 'Wow'. I had worked with lots of children in the academy, but only one or two are special from the off — and he was.

'He was a ready-made athlete with quick feet. We moved him up in age straight away.

'The club would have loved to sign him.'

Before Newcastle could get the family to commit, word had reached Manchester of a young player light years ahead of his peers.

'Sadly, we could not compete with City,' says Ballantyne. 'Shola moved to Manchester and joined their academy. That is the big frustration.

'He should have been making his debut for Newcastle on Sunday. In fact, he is so good, he would have made it long ago. He is just another one who got away for Newcastle.'

Shoretire, whose mother is a doctor, was born in North Tyneside General Hospital in February, 2004. That same week, Shola Ameobi scored for Newcastle in a 3-1 win over Leicester. You would have to ask his Nigerian-born dad if that was the inspiration for his son's name.

Just four miles from that hospital are St Peters Playing Fields in Wallsend. It was there, six years later, that Shoretire (left) first turned up looking for a game of football. Ian Riley was the coach of Wallsend Boys Club Under 8s.

'A lot of kids show up wanting to join in,' says Riley. 'Most of them haven't played before and aren't very good. That wasn't the case with Shola. It was raw, natural ability. The ball stuck to his foot.

'You can improve any player with coaching, but the odd one just has it. They just need guidance. He spent a season with us playing up in age. He was a dribbler and scored goals for fun.

'His dad was determined that he was going to be a player. He would stand behind the goal we were attacking, with his flat cap on, shouting out instructions to Shola.

'But Shola was always destined to make it. We say up here you need feet, heart and a head to be a footballer. Two of those aren't enough. Shola had all three. His determination made him stand out, not just his skill and pace.

'He joined Newcastle and they wanted to keep him under wraps before signing him. That was always going to be very hard.'

Shoretire's talent was never going to remain a secret.

Only now will the rest of the world get to see what all the fuss is about.


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