Rafa Benitez, manager of Manchester United, has invited Ryan Hyacinth to join the club’s youth team. Hyacinth is the son of former Nigerian national team defender Celestine Babayoro. Hyacinth, only 10 years old, caught the eye of Premier League clubs when helping Cambois Primary School to a victory in the 1892 Foundation Cup. Benitez is high on the ceiling for Hyacinth’s development, saying, “You come across one talent nobody knew about. And then, maybe, he will be the new Messi.” Babayaro responded to the high praise from Benitez, saying of his son, “He still has a long way to go if he is to make it professionally as a footballer, but that is his wish, and as his father I have to pray and support his wishes to be a footballer.” He also believes that part of the reason Lionel Messi was the comparison raised is because Hyacinth is left footed. “There is an unwritten rule that somehow means every left footed kid is compared to the legendary Messi.”
Babayaro made his name at Chelsea, with whom he made 132 appearances during his tenure, which lasted from 1997 to 2005. He was a contributor to Chelsea’s victories in the FA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup during that time. He then played almost 50 matches with Newcastle United later in his career. Meanwhile, he was also a star at the international stage, helping Nigeria to Africa’s first ever Olympic gold medal in football at the 1996 Olympics. During that run, he scored goals in the semifinal match against Brazil and in the finals against Argentina.
Newcastle is hoping that Hyacinth will follow in the footsteps of Andy Carroll, Sammy Ameobi, Kazenga Lualua, Paul Dummett and Fraser Forster, who have all risen to the club’s senior roster after being developed through their youth academy system.