16-year-old Bedford footballer makes shock move to AS Roma

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Mbunya joins the Italian giants on a three-year deal.
Mbunya joins the Italian giants on a three-year deal. Image: Mbunya Alemanji/AS Roma

Mbunya Alemanji, 16, was a student at St. Thomas More Upper School but also plied his footballing trade for Cambridge United, before a huge Italian club came knocking.

Mbunya will be swapping visits to the likes of Northampton, Yeovil and Swindon for the Italian towns of Atalanta, Naples and Perugia in a remarkable move to Roma for the Bedford youngster, labelled by some as a “wonderkid”.

Despite having never seen him play in person, AS Roma have paid the U’s a total of £70,000 in compensation with Mbunya already setting up camp in the Italian capital.

Mbunya was born in Germany and began his Cambridge United career at 13, but his latest move sees him relocate to one of Italy’s largest and most famous clubs in a brave but ultimately rewarding transfer for the teenager.

AS Roma finished 5th in Serie A and boast superstars such as Pedro, Chris Smalling and Edin Dzeko, an experienced former Manchester City striker who Mbunya will look to learn a lot from in Rome.

He will join up with the Under-17 squad, a side who have won the last two Under-17 Italian league titles, and has signed a three-year deal for ‘i Giallorossi’.

He has joined as a scholar initially, making the move to professional at 17 years old in a contract up to the end of the 2022-23 season.

However the fiercely ambitious young striker won’t look to stop there, with eyes on a first team place at the Stadio Olimpico.

Despite his schoolmates showing obvious excitement at their friend’s big move, Mbunya himself has been down-to-earth about his adventure:

“I’m just trying to keep calm”, he said, in an interview with BBC Sport. “My friends have been saying to me: ‘Do you realise it’s Roma?!’ but I’m just trying to prove why I’m there.”

It was Roma’s Sporting Director Morgan de Sanctis who ultimately made the move to bring Alemanji to Rome, a man full of experience having played for five Italian clubs as well as the national team.

It’s the beginning of an exciting career for the youngster who will live at Roma’s training complex, but only after getting through the quarantine…

“I came out of my room for my Covid test and walked past [former Chelsea winger] Pedro”, he says, confirming what has been a momentous couple of weeks for Bedford’s latest sporting young gun.

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