Of all the many names which have been linked with summer moves to Tottenham Hotspur, Sergio Ribeiro is not the one which will get Spurs supporters the most excited.
The Porto starlet is only 16 years old, but according to a recent report in the Daily Mail, scouts from Spurs have been watching him in action and have been impressed.
However, so have representatives from Serie A side Udinese, setting the scene for the youngster having to decide between staying in Portugal and moving to either England or Italy in the upcoming transfer window.
The aforementioned report is understandably brief, as information on players of such an age is not always easy to come by. If it appeared in the hard copy of the paper at all, the story would have been a short block of text used to make up space among pages full of reports and reaction to Chelsea's European triumph over Barcelona the previous night.
Still, working on the assumption that the line came from an agent or from someone at Tottenham, you'd think there would be a bit more detail.
Sergio Miguel Hora Ribeiro hails from Mafamude, a town in the district of Porto. At 1.74 metres tall, his performances in the Porto and Portugal youth teams were highlighted by his height, especially since captaining his national Under-16 side.
The youngster has spent time on loan at Padroense, a third-tier club in neighbouring Matosinhos. If Porto gives an indication that they are willing to let one of their brightest prospects leave, or indeed find they are unable to keep him, then expect Ribeiro's name to be heard a lot more this summer.
Tottenham could be a good fit for him, as they have a decent record when it comes to identifying and bringing through young talent in recent years.
When Gareth Bale arrived from Southampton for a big fee five years ago, he was one of the most highly-rated teenagers out there, but not even anyone at Tottenham could have predicted he would become as good as he is, especially considering he was bought as a left-back.
Kyle Walker, signed from Sheffield United in a double-deal along with namesake and fellow full-back Kyle Naughton, proved himself on loan at Aston Villa last season. He has broken into the England squad this term and won the PFA Player of the Year award. Naughton, meanwhile, has racked up plenty of appearances for Norwich, as the Canaries have defied the skeptics and secured a comfortable finish on their first season back in the Premier League.
Receiving fewer plaudits—but also making a decent contribution for Spurs this season—are Jake Livermore and Danny Rose.
Livermore joined from MK Dons as an 18-year-old, while Rose came from Leeds a year younger. While they have mostly been called upon either from the bench or when injuries demanded it, they have shown their Premier League potential, even if their long-term futures turn out not to be at White Hart Lane.
Sandro—already 21 and a Copa Libertadores winner when he arrived in north London—has piqued the interest of several clubs in southern Europe.
Another player who arrived at Spurs as a youngster and developed into a full international is Tom Huddlestone, who has a fight on his hands to return to the team when he finally comes back from long-term injury.
Of course, that is not to say that every young prospect the Spurs have signed has gone on to be a runaway success. Far from it.
Last summer, Spanish attacking midfielder Iago Falque arrived from Juventus to much excitement. A handful of cup appearances followed by a loan move was not exactly unexpected for him, but he only made one appearance upon moving to Southampton in January. The Saints clearly didn't need him, finishing as they did second in the Championship—and with that, earning automatic promotion back to the Premier League.
The Spurs Lodge training ground is chock-full of young players who either came up through the youth ranks or were poached from other clubs who will struggle to make the grade. Harry Kane, Jonathan Obika, John Bostock, Tommy Carroll, Dean Parrett, Andros Townsend have all had cursory run-outs in the early rounds of cup competitions before being shipped out on loan to the lower leagues, often several times.
While such a policy is standard practice for young prospects at top-flight clubs and considered essential for their development, it is highly unlikely that any more than one or two will be celebrating their 25th birthday still on Tottenham's books.
Still, Tottenham can afford to adopt such a scattergun approach to signing young talents, as they have the resources to be able to gamble on several players at a time. If they are lucky, they might even turn a decent profit on some of them.
However, the young players in the current first-team squad are proof that if a young prospect has the talent and can take their chance when it comes—as Rose did so spectacularly with he volleyed strike against Arsenal two years ago—then the rewards are there.
If Spurs can convince Ribeiro that their club is the best place for him to develop, they could well land themselves yet another top young prospect.
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