Teenage prodigy Angel Gomes enjoyed a particularly sweet 16th birthday back in August. The London-born youngster came off the bench for the Manchester United under-18s to score a hat-trick against Everton and captained the England under-17s in the same week.
Widely regarded as the hottest prospect within the Red Devils’ academy, many United fans are keeping a close eye on Gomes in the hope that he will develop into a first-team star over the next few years.
According to recent reports, Spanish champions Barcelona are also monitoring the progress of the young man who has been likened to Lionel Messi. But the player’s father, who himself was a professional footballer, recently told Portuguese newspaper A Bola, that it remains his son’s "dream" to make the grade at Old Trafford.
And, if handled correctly, that dream has a strong chance of becoming realit; the diminutive forward has already shown himself to have a remarkably diverse skill-set for one so young.
Gomes is able to play on either flank or centrally as a striker, but his long-term future may lie in the number 10 position, where his exhilarating dribbling skills, unpredictability and magician-like creativity would be most dangerous.
Blessed with all of the tricks and flicks that get fans out of their seats, the 16-year-old also has the much sought-after "end product" that separates the truly elite players from the Fancy Dans. A quick glance at a YouTube highlight compilation of Gomes in action will show that the majority of his jinking dribbles and dumbfounding tricks end with a chance-conjuring through-ball or shot at goal.
Gomes’ low centre of gravity enables him to effortlessly change direction at high speed, and his ability to use both feet gives him the confidence to dribble in any direction -- a nightmare combination for opposing defenders.
Though it is too early to say for sure just how good Gomes could become, the young star has already shown signs of the kind of temperament required to succeed at the highest level, evidenced by the fact that he has been chosen to captain the Young Lions in addition to having consistently been played at higher age groups during his time at United.
Gomes first appeared for the under-18s side as a 14-year-old but this season has seen the speedy attacker make the permanent jump to that level, and he has looked a natural fit despite being two years younger than most of his team-mates and opponents.
If he continues to progress at his current rate, Gomes will be making his senior bow before too long.