Hassan Ayari said it was a “dream come true” when he joined Sheffield United.
Born in New York to a Lithuanian mother and Tunisian father, the 18-year-old was signed by the Blades from TW Braga. They’re an amateur youth academy in Northern Ireland, who play in the Lisburn League.
There was some controversy as Braga were later fined £8,500 by FIFA for fielding Ayari. It was claimed he was unregistered and did not have international clearance.
The academy countered that they thought he had an EU passport because of his Lithuanian heritage. And that they could not afford to pay the fine.
FIFA didn’t back down, but after its coverage in the media many rallied to raise the money for Braga – as reported by Belfast Live.
As for Ayari, he is delighted to be playing in the youth ranks at a Premier League club.
“I was really happy to join Sheffield United, a great club in England. It was a dream come true. I’m getting along with the team well and have made a lot of friends really quickly,” the attacking midfielder told Tunisie-Foot.
“My goals this season are to get the top goal scorer award in the whole academy and to try and play as many U23 games as possible. I also want us to go really far in the FA Youth Cup.
“What I want is to play football in the first team as quickly as possible and to start to make a big name for myself.”
What next for Hassan Ayari?
Ayari’s former academy reported earlier this year that the youngster had been training with the first team “on occasion”.
Sport Witness adds that the teenager is expected to sign his first professional contract with the Blades in the near future.
Despite his mixed heritage, Ayari says that he will play international football for Tunisia if the opportunity ever presents itself.
However, it’s unlikely United fans will be seeing him in the first team any time soon.
First Ayari will need to progress to the Under-23s – which he has done on occasion already – on a more regular basis.
Then he will need to impress academy boss Jack Lester, so that he then recommends him to Chris Wilder.
There are several other youth prospects ahead of him who are still waiting for their chance.
That includes the likes of Rhys Norrington-Davies, Regan Slater and Tyler Smith. The trio are all currently out on loan at EFL clubs.
The Blades do have a strong history when it comes to developing young talent. England internationals Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker all came through their youth ranks.
However, the last academy product to truly break into the first team was David Brooks in 2016.