Manchester City have won the battle to sign the highly-regarded 16-year-old Irish goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, paying a fee of around £420,000 to Shamrock Rovers, a record for a non-professional in Ireland.
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 eventually City’s offer was the most persuasive. Bazunu was in Manchester this week with his family to sign terms with the club and meet academy director Jason Wilcox.
He has had a remarkable start to his senior professional career this season making his debut for Rovers in the League of Ireland Premier Division and the Europa League qualifiers – and keeping four consecutive clean sheets at the start of the season.
A joining date has not yet been set for the teenager who wants to complete his leaving’ certificate in the Irish education system, in conjunction with playing at City. He will stay at the Irish club in the meantime and come to Manchester either in January or in time for the start of next season when he will go into the elite development squad.
He turns 17 in February when he will be able to sign his first professional deal. The fee reflects the faith that City have in the player and also the interest generated in him around Europe. The young goalkeeper attracted interest from Liverpool and Celtic, also keen on him.
Wilcox’s relationship with two fellow former professionals, Stephen McPhail, Rovers’ director of football, and academy coach Damien Duff, helped City’s cause. Duff was at Blackburn Rovers with Wilcox. McPhail was a Leeds United team-mate.
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.
Bazunu represents a significant investment by the academy in the player. He is an Irish youth international and already stands at more than six feet. City’s policy is to keep their third choice goalkeeper as a homegrown player. That was previously Angus Gunn until he was sold to Southampton for £13.5 million this summer.
They currently have 19-year-old Arijanet Muric in that position, a Kosovan-born Montenegro Under-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.