9 year old Australian gets picked up by Manchester United after they watch YouTube clip
If you didn’t know the name Rhain Davis before, you almost certainly do now.
The nine-year-old, a recent recruit for Manchester United’s academy, is now the talk of football – thanks to a DVD of him in action for Brisbane club Redlands United.
He even made the front page of The Sun newspaper – who have immediately, and somewhat inevitably, dubbed him the new Wayne Rooney.
An unnamed ‘source’ told the paper: “He has created a huge buzz and people are raving about him all over the world.”
The video, which is said to have already had more than three million viewers on YouTube, is undeniably impressive. The youngster dances round defenders, performs some step-overs a la Cristiano Ronaldo and delivers defence-splitting passes.
It is easy to see why United invited Davis to move 11,000 miles from Brisbane to Manchester after they were sent the DVD of him in action by his Cheshire-based grandfather.
But the new Wayne Rooney?
The man who coached Rooney as a boy, Everton’s academy manager Ray Hall, warns there are no guarantees.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk about prodigies but I can tell you that no child is treated any differently from another when they’re that young,” he told BBC Five Live.
“We never make any promises. All we’re doing is providing youngsters with an opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
Joe Cole was dubbed the new Gazza when he was younger
Understandably, United have tempered expectations, reiterating that they take on 30 nine-year-olds every year, of which Davis is only one.
Davis must now survive the annual cut at Old Trafford and even if he does that, there is little guarantee he will play for United.
“The number of United academy graduates going into professional football is quite high,” United spokesman Phil Townsend told BBC Sport.
“But of the current United first-team squad, only one English player (Danny Simpson) came from the academy.”
And of course, we have been here before with some much-celebrated child prodigies, some of whom make it (like Joe Cole) and some of whom don’t.
Football agent Sky Andrews says it is impossible to tell which way a nine-year-old will go.
“Joe Cole is a phenomenon because he was a child prodigy who came through,” he said.
“A lot of kids have talent but it’s an overrated attribute. When you get older, other things come into play like attitude and stickability.”
As a cautionary tale, Andrews cited the example of Sonny Pike, who hit the headlines as a seven-year-old when he was invited to train with Ajax’s renowned academy.
Overwhelmed by the pressure, Pike suffered a nervous breakdown in 2000 before abandoning professional football altogether three years later.
But Hall strikes a far more optimistic note.
“Wayne Rooney is the player that everybody knows but we actually had five boys in the same intake that are now playing in other football leagues,” he said.
“So out of 14 nine-year-olds, six are making a living and that’s not a bad percentage.”
But what happened to the other eight?
“It depends what age they are when we let them go,” he explained.
“Some leave when they are 12, some when they are 16. If they wish to find another club, we’ll try to organise that for them but some boys have just had enough and go back to university.”
So for all the talk of being the next Rooney, Davis’ immediate target is much more simple: to earn a full-time scholarship with United when he turns 12.
After that, the hard work really begins.