Manchester City are tracking the progress of St Patrick's Athletic's teenage sensation Sam Curtis, with the Premier League champions very keen on the talented defender.
However, Pep Guardiola's side would be unable to formally sign the Meath native until December 2023 due to the prohibition of the transfer of underage Irish players to the United Kingdom following Brexit.
Curtis is already a regular for Tim Clancy's Saints, having started 14 league games this year, though he does not turn 18 until December 2023.
He made a critical block to thwart a Dundalk attack in injury time on Friday night, beginning the move that led to the winning goal in a critical game for St Pat's and their European ambitions.
In 2020, Curtis made headlines after a senior debut for Shamrock Rovers II aged 14 in a First Division match against Athlone Town.
He has long been expected to play at a higher level – and City are now favourites to sign him. They have some previous when it comes to the League of Ireland, having signed Gavin Bazunu from Shamrock Rovers.
Premier League clubs can no longer sign players from the EU under 18 as a little-thought-of consequence of Brexit.
The owners of Manchester City agreed the acquisition of Belgian second tier club Lommel SK two years ago.
If City were keen to advance their interest in Curtis he could sign for Lommel before moving to the Etihad once he is 18 as a means of getting around the preventives in front of them.
RTÉ Sport understands that Curtis would be loaned back to St Pat's as part of any deal, which would be financially lucrative for the Inchicore club.
Curtis can play in a number of positions but is seen as a right-back or centre-back going forward.
Capped at under-15, U17 and U19 level for Ireland, he was just 14 years and 320 days when he lined out for Shamrock Rovers II.
His St Pat's debut came aged 15 years and 255 days, against Waterford last year. He and elder brother Ben subsequently signed professional deals for Saints.
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