Rabbi Matondo: Wales winger next British youngster to flourish abroad?

Rabbi Matondo
Rabbi Matondo was born in Liverpool but raised in Cardiff, where he started his football career

Rabbi Matondo has only played 12 minutes of senior football - but he could soon become Wales' most expensive teenager.

Despite still waiting to make his first-team debut for Manchester City, the 18-year-old has attracted interest from other Premier League clubs, while Bayern Munich are thought to be preparing a bid of £10m.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed another German club, Schalke, have contacted the Premier League champions over Matondo.

And although his experience may be limited, the winger's electric pace and eye for goal have already caught the attention of Wales manager Ryan Giggs.

That is why he has those 12 minutes of senior action to his name - his debut was a rare highlight on an otherwise dismal night for Wales as they lost 1-0 to Albania last November.

Matondo is a rising star and, should a move to Bayern materialise, he could become the latest addition to a growing group of young British players thriving abroad.

His former team-mate, English forward Jadon Sancho, 18, has already made the move from Manchester City to Germany, joining Borussia Dortmund for £10m in August 2017.

Then there is teenage Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, who is also a target for Bayern Munich, while 19-year-old Reiss Nelson is currently impressing at Hoffenheim on loan from Arsenal.

Those players have flourished in their new surroundings, so does Matondo have what it takes to follow their lead?

Wales assistant manager Osian Roberts believes so, having tracked Matondo's progress through the Welsh national youth ranks in his other role as the Football Association of Wales' technical director.

"He's a very exciting player because he's an attacker and extremely quick, with that ability to beat defenders," Roberts tells BBC Sport Wales.

"He's worked under Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta [at Manchester City], so it will be interesting to see what he does next.

"They were very pleased with how he did with the first team on their pre-season tour in the summer, but it's exceptionally difficult to get into that squad.

"Maybe because of that and that experience he's had of playing in the Uefa Youth League, he's thinking of leaving in order to play regular first-team football.

"Time will tell. Several clubs have shown an interest in him.

"German clubs are keen and that would be for their first teams, which shows the strides he's made in the past few years."

Dan James, Matt Smith, Gareth Bale, Rabbi Matondo, Ashley Williams (obscured) and Ben Woodburn
Rabbi Matondo (second from right) during Wales training before November's trip to Albania

Made in Cardiff

Matondo was born in Liverpool but moved to Cardiff at a young age, and his accent is a nod to his upbringing in the Tremorfa area of the Welsh capital.

After a childhood spent playing football with his father Dada and brothers Cedrick and Japhet, Matondo joined Cardiff City's academy, where his performances led to youth international honours with Wales.

Then aged 15, his eye-catching displays also earned him a move to Premier League champions Manchester City.

While he impressed with City's Under-23s, Matondo's international future was becoming a point of discussion, as he qualifies to play for England and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as Wales.

Those options remain open to him because he has only played for Wales in a friendly, meaning he could still switch allegiance.

But for Matondo himself, it has never been in doubt.

"It's always been Wales for me," he said after his debut in Albania.

"I'm happy here and happy with Ryan Giggs. He's given me an opportunity and I'm grateful for that.

"This is what I've been building up for all my life, when a youngster, when watching the likes of Gareth Bale now I'm playing alongside him,

"It still seems crazy to me to be on the same pitch as him and training with him and being around people like Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey - it's just crazy for me."

Making a mark at Man City

It is difficult for a player to stand out at Manchester City, where training sessions must resemble daily footballing exhibitions curated by Pep Guardiola as he oversees a multi-million-pound squad overflowing with stellar talents such as Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

They are a technically proficient group, and frighteningly fast, as Premier League defenders who have tried to mark Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero will attest.

In that respect, however, Matondo has the beating of them all.

When every player at the club - of all ages and all teams - took part in a 20 metre sprinting test, Matondo clocked the fastest time.

"I did break the record but I'm not going to big myself too much up about it," he says with a giggle.

Matondo remains modest whenever the subject of the sprint test is raised, mindful that he still has some way to go before he establishes himself.

Whether that is with City, Bayern or another club, Matondo looks like a player who will go far, fast.

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