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NXGN star Braaf has it all to be a fantastic player - On-loan Man City wonderkid impressing Udinese

25-Mar-2021, 08:00 pm

Jayden Braaf Manchester City 2019-20

Manchester City winger Jayden Braaf has been dubbed a "fantastic player" and an "incredible talent" as he takes his first steps into senior football on loan at Udinese.

The 18-year-old has long been earmarked as a potential star, with the winger having been dubbed the new Sancho ever since his arrival at the Etihad Academy as a 16-year-old.

However, first-team opportunities at City were not forthcoming and, in January, the 18-year-old was snapped up by Udinese, who have an option to buy Braaf permanently at the end of the campaign.

Speaking exclusively toGoal after Braaf was named on the 2021 NXGN list of the worlds top teenage footballers,ex-Italy international and Udineses chief scoutAndrea Carnevalesaid: "He has enormous qualities considering he was onlyborn in 2002.

"He does really great things on the pitch – great tricks – and he is impressive physically.

"He seems like a player already that is ready physically, but also in his style of playing. He has a big personality, fantastic skills and for sure he’s going to have a good time here.

“At Udinese, we are really happy to have him in the squad. We followed him for such a long time.

"He arrived on the last day of the (January) transfer window and, after training with us, he looks better and better. We want to use him and we need to use him because he’s a fantastic player.”

The Netherlands youth international has made just one appearance for his temporary club thus far: a 14-minute cameo in Februarys 1-0 win over Fiorentina.

To an extent that should have been expected, with the last year of Braafs career having been disrupted by both injury and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Only Citys local academy players were recalled to training last summer once football restarted, with the club concerned about foreign players being left isolated if they were forced to live alone in the locked-down city.

That meant a prolonged spell with no football for Braaf, and that was lengthened after he missed the start of the 2020-21 through injury.

He did manage to make a brief appearance in Citys FA Youth Cup final win over Chelsea in November, as they ended their 12-year wait for the trophy, but there is no doubt that he arrived in Italy lacking match fitness.

“For his qualities, he can play right now,” Carnevale added. “The question is how will he adapt to our league physically.

“He needs preparation in physical terms, because when he arrived at the end of January, he hadn’t trained with Manchester City for some days before.

“His condition is increasing day-by-day and week-by-week, but he’s absolutely ready to play.

“In his first games he is going to face something new in the style of play in a new league, because he comes from English football and Netherlands, which is completely different from Italian football.

“But Udinese, in its history, has always discovered great talent from all over the world, and always had the capacity to be patient with their growth and use them in the right moment.

“The club strongly believes in Braaf because he has fantastic talent and power. We will wait for the right time to get the best from his potential.”

With Udinese holding an option to sign Braaf at the end of 2020-21, the wideman –who has previously been a target for RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund –has never been closer to leaving City behind.

Given the esteem he has been held in at the club in recent years, that is unfortunate, though it is understandable that he would want to play first-team football sooner rather than later.

Pep Guardiola has always urged patience regarding Braafs development, much as he did with Phil Foden before him.

But the lack of opportunities has led to some questions being raised over Braafs attitude, as the teenager believes he is ready to make the step up.

Sources at City insist that Braaf merely has a strong personality, though he has left previous clubs under a cloud.

Having been enrolled into Ajaxs academy at a young age, he left as he felt the training was too serious, only to then fall out with his next club, PSV, when they refused to let him play for Netherlands in a youth tournament.

Carnevale, however, has been impressed by Braafs attitude since his arrival in Italy.

“It’s all up to him because he’s incredibly talented,” he said. “For sure, he can reach the highest level in football, but it depends on his commitment. To be a player at the top level, you need heart and to be hungry.

“Jayden is an incredible talent,and in his first few weeks in Udinesehe has shown great commitment,determination and a great mentality.

"I am convinced he can become an important player at Udinese.”

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