Tuesday 25 September 2018

Bazunu primed to take the next step at City

Gavin Bazunu signs his Man City contract alongside academy director Jason Wilcox
Gavin Bazunu signs his Man City contract alongside academy director Jason Wilcox

Sam Wallace and Daniel McDonnell

Manchester City have won the battle to sign the highly-regarded 16-year-old Dubliner Gavin Bazunu, paying a fee in the region of €500,000 to Shamrock Rovers.

That's in the same ballpark as the League of Ireland record fee that Sunderland paid for Cork City striker Roy O'Donovan in 2007, but the clauses attached mean that the teenager is set to become the most expensive export from the league.

Bazunu was the subject of a series of bids from Tottenham Hotspur and also visited Chelsea in the build-up to making his decision.

Spurs' relationship with Rovers, forged when they played each other in the Europa League in 2011, had given the London club confidence that they could get the player but City were always the front runners.

Terms

Bazunu was in Manchester this week with his family to sign terms with the club and meet academy director Jason Wilcox.

He sprung to prominence in the summer when a goalkeeping crisis at Rovers led Stephen Bradley to put his faith in the Firhouse youngster.

Bazunu went on to keep a series of clean sheets and his profile received a serious boost after he was particularly impressive in the Europa League tie with top Swedish outfit AIK.

A firm date for Bazunu's move to England has not been agreed, but it's expected that he will stay at home until he completes his Leaving Cert next summer.

The youngster has been training full-time with Rovers as part of an arrangement they have with the fee-paying Ashfield College in Dundrum which allows talented players to train in the morning and then catch up on school work later in the day.

As Bazunu is on pro terms with Rovers, the existing rules mean he was unable to sign a professional contract with City until his 17th birthday next February. Therefore, the anticipation is that he will stick around at Rovers until moving over ahead of the 2019/20 season.

The fee reflects the faith that City have in the player and also the interest generated in him around England and Europe.

Wilcox's relationship with two former team-mates helped his cause. He played with the Rovers academy coach at Blackburn and was at Leeds with sporting director Stephen McPhail.

Bazunu represents a significant investment by the academy in the player, and it's a coup for Rovers considering he was one of their own - they have recruited heavily from other schoolboy clubs to strengthen their hand at underage level.

The recruitment of goalkeepers at City is overseen by the specialist scout for that position David Rouse and supported by senior goalkeepers' coach Xabier Mancisidor and the head of academy recruitment Joe Shields.

City's policy is to keep their third-choice goalkeeper as a home-grown player. That was previously Angus Gunn until he was sold to Southampton for £13.5m this summer.

They currently have 19-year-old Arijanet Muric in that position, a Kosovan-born Montenegro U-21 whom they signed at the age of 16 from Grasshoppers Zurich.

Muric is currently second choice with the injury to Claudio Bravo. It is anticipated that Bazunu would eventually move up to third choice before building his career on loan.

Irish Independent

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