Bazunu becomes a Sky Blue - Manchester City swoop for Hoops goalkeeper

Wed, Oct 03 2018

Gavin Bazunu saving a penalty against Cork City in Turners Cross Credit: Steve Alfred (ETPhotos)

Gavin Bazunu, the 16-year-old League of Ireland teenage sensation, will make the switch from Shamrock Rovers to Premier League side Manchester City next year.

The Hoops confirmed on Wednesday evening that the club reached a pre-contract agreement with Manchester City for the transfer of goalkeeper, with Bazunu remaining with Rovers' first team squad before making the move to Manchester in 2019.

Rovers and Man City have put arrangements in place for Bazunu to sit his Leaving Cert next June. The player has been part of the Rovers first team squad for most of this season, training with the senior squad in the morning before attending Ashfield College in the afternoon as part of Rovers’ Player Education Partnership.

Both Aaron Bolger and Dean Dillon completed sixth year and their Leaving Cert in Ashfield College earlier this year and Bazunu is due to follow suit.

The transfer fee has not been disclosed but is thought to be in excess of €0.5m. Rovers transfer dealings this season already include a reported €0.35m received from Preston North End for Graham Burke.

Rovers’ club statement noted that “this is the biggest transfer by an Irish club in the professional era. The funds generated from player sales this season are significant which in itself shows that our strategy is being implemented extremely well.

“The progress of Gavin is a result of the Academy and First Team football staff working together towards the same goal of producing the right players and people for our First Team.

“We are already seeing the benefits of this strategy; it creates an additional revenue stream for the club which allows us to further invest in the club as a whole (First Team & Academy) with the ultimate goal of winning trophies at First Team level in the near future.

“We believe in our plan and are very confident with continued hard work that we will continue to build a world-class Academy and a First Team that wins trophies.

“To break the trend of young boys leaving Ireland with no education and very little in terms of a contract, this transfer is a defining moment for our club and for Irish football.  We are very proud that our club has the vision, intent and drive to put in place support networks to develop our players in all aspects of their lives.”

The size of the fee reflects the interest in the player – with reports previously linking Celtic, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur to the player – and also the fact that the Hoops had signed up the highly sought after Tallaght native to a long term contract earlier this year.

The player first began playing with Rovers as a seven year old and after a spell away from the Hoops signed back with the club in 2015 – joining the club’s under 14 team.

Bazunu progressed through Rovers’ u15, u17 and u19 teams before making his first senior start at the age of 16 and 109 days. That debut in a 5-0 League of Ireland win over Bray Wanderers in Tallaght saw him become the youngest ever goalkeeper to line out for the Hoops. He played four league fixtures in June and July and has yet to concede a goal in senior domestic action.

His last league match took place in Turners Cross. He saved a second half penalty in that match from Kieran Sadlier to secure a point for Rovers - the first points Cork City had dropped at home all season at that time.

Hoops Head Coach Stephen Bradley also played the ‘keeper in Rovers’ Europa League tie against Swedish side AIK, a tie they lost 2-1 after extratime. Bazunu won the SSE Airtricity League / SWAI player of the month award last July.

Having picked up an injury following the Europa League qualifier, Bazunu has had to bide his time for more match action with the Hoops following the signing of former Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Alan Mannus.

Between Bazunu and Mannus the pair have kept nine clean sheets in Rovers’ last 11 league matches. Bazunu kept a clean sheet in September for the Republic of Ireland’s under 17 team in the scoreless draw with Turkey.