Sheffield United academy product, Aymen Tahar, thought his career as a player was over before a chance meeting with former teammate, Kyle Walker.
Born and raised in Sheffield, Tahar came through the ranks at Bramall Lane alongside Walker and best friend Kyle Naughton. Yet unlike them, the midfielder only played once for the Blades before dropping into non-league.
Tahar played for Staveley Miners Welfare alongside his studies at Sheffield Hallam University, before a chance meeting with Walker changed his life.
“I bumped into Kyle, whose friend Dom was starting to get into working as an agent and he told him: ‘This kid is good, can you help him find a club?’ He invited me to London for a trial game,” the 30-year-old told the Guardian.
“I used to think they were a bit of a waste of time but my best friend, Kyle Naughton, was at Spurs at the time and he told me to go and that I could go stay with him. I went down and it was freezing. In the end the game got called off at half-time.”
What happened next for the Sheffield United academy player?
Despite the trial game never happening, Tahar had still been spotted by scouts. He signed a four-year deal at Romanian side, Gaz Metan Medias – a move which he described as a “culture shock.”
After three-and-a-half years Tahar made the switch to the country’s biggest team, Steaua Bucharest. Since then his career has included two spells in Portugal with Boavista and six months in Japan at Sagan Tosu.
Tahar now plays in the Greek Super League with Panaitolikos, having also been offered the chance to move to Italy and Serie A side Crotone. During his time in Bucharest he played in both Champions League and Europa League qualifiers.
Away from football Tahar has set up a property portfolio. So while his career hasn’t quite taken the same path as Walker’s, he has certainly made the most of it.
“Playing abroad has been great to me. You can do well financially and doing it against top players,” Tahar continued.
“I speak to friends in the lower leagues who are panicking about paying mortgages as their contracts are running out. People need to see that there’s more out there.”