Ipswich Town starlet Ben Knight set for £1m switch to Manchester City
Ben Knight – the 16-year-old widely viewed as Ipswich Town’s most promising young player – is set to complete a £1m move to Premier League champions Manchester City next week.
The diminutive England U16 forward, who hails from Cambridge and has been with the Blues since the age of eight, has been hailed as a very exciting prospect at Playford Road for some time.
It’s understood that he was the player academy supremo Bryan Klug was referring to when he said the Blues had a young player who could ‘potentially be the best I have ever worked with’ at the Supporters’ Club AGM last year.
Former homegrown Town star Kieron Dyer, who was capped 33 times by England and now coaches at the academy, has been full of praise for Knight too, insisting the teenager could go on to have an even better career than his own and comparing his style of play to Lionel Messi.
Knight was due to start a two-year scholarship with the Blues this summer, but long-term admirers Manchester City have come up with an offer that owner Marcus Evans has – it’s understood – reluctantly accepted.
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Town could have dug their heels in on valuation, but that would have run the risk of a tribunal setting the compensation at a lower figure. Ultimately the Elite Player Performance Plan system means they were powerless to stop him moving on.
It’s understood several other top-flight clubs, both in England and Germany, had been vying for Knight’s signature.
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Fifteen-year-old forward Harry Clarke was tempted to Arsenal in 2015, while the Blues saw young forward Charlie Brown – who was 16 at the time – move to Chelsea for compensation of around £600,000 in the summer of 2016.
And it’s understood that reports suggesting Arsenal are in talks with the Blues about signing 15-year-old Marcelo Flores are also true.
Flores was born in Mexico, raised in Canada and was spotted by Town during a scouting mission in the Cayman Islands two years ago. His father, Ruben, is a former professional and works at Town as a coach.
Speaking back in August 2016, former Town head of academy recruitment Steve McGavin – who is now at Norwich – said: “Unfortunately, with the Premier League, we’ve created a monster. It’s like a runaway train that no-one knows how to stop. The money at the top end, as we all know, is huge and it’s filtered down into the Premier League academies.
“I won’t say the clubs’ names, but one Premier League club recently took another Premier League club’s best Under-nine, Under-10, Under-11 and Under-12. The financial package that the Under-nine got was mind blowing.
“Now you have to ask yourself, if your son is playing for Tottenham and moves to Chelsea, to pick a random example, what is going to be the huge differences between those academies? There is only one difference... money.”
McGavin continued: “In recent times we’ve lost two boys. In both instances the players and the families wanted to move.
“One thing EPPP has brought in is that accessibility for clubs. If a club wants to sign a player and the player and his family want him to go then there is very little you can do about it.
“They go with our absolute best wishes and we hope they have all the success in the world because we would be rewarded financially very, very well if they do very, very well.
“We will lose players to other clubs because there might be a contract offer which is financially more rewarding, but that won’t change the way we work.
“We’ve still got lots of talented boys and we’ll keep finding talented boys.”