When Real Sociedad signed Mohamed-Ali Cho from Angers at the start of the 2022 summer, the move raised some eyebrows as the French forward became a top five most expensive signing of all time for the Basque club.
Yet, the 18-year-old is already demonstrating exactly why La Real made such a significant investment in him. It's clear that he has what it takes to become a superstar.
Ligue 1 side Angers had also spotted this potential. When he went for a trial at the Stade Raymond Kopa at the end of 2019, the scouts were so impressed by the then-15-year-old that they immediately urged the club's directors to organise the paperwork and a deal was agreed within 48 hours. Just a few months after that, once he'd turned 16, Cho and Angers made history as he became the youngest player to be given a professional contract in France.
Before that, the forward had spent his youth football career between France and England. Born in the Parisian suburbs, he almost immediately moved to London, where his parents had work. At the age of six, he returned to France and was enrolled in the PSG academy, before returning to the UK aged 11 to join Everton's youth set-up. He stayed there until his transfer to Angers, meaning he has actually spent more of his life in England than in France, speaking both English and French fluently.
Because of this, Cho has represented both nations at youth level, playing for England's U15s and U16s, before more recently representing Les Bleus, making seven appearances for the France U21s. He could also represent the Ivory Coast or Morocco given his parents' backgrounds, but it would be a dream for the forward to one day play for the senior French side at the Stade de France, the coliseum of French sport that stands just four kilometres from the part of Saint-Denis where Cho was born.
The teenager is humble enough to know, though, that senior international football is something for the future. For now, he is a rising star who is determined to work hard every day to ensure he fulfils his immense potential. This is why joining Real Sociedad appealed to him so much.
As Cho explained in an interview given to Spanish newspaper MARCA shortly after his arrival in San Sebastián: "It's true that I had many offers and that it was tough to pick from them all, but, frankly, I really liked La Real because of the club's sporting project, in which I think I can improve. I knew that this was a good club, that was playing in Europe and among the top teams in LaLiga Santander. Playing in Europe is one of the things I wanted."
Cho formed part of a historic European night for Real Sociedad, as he came off the bench at Old Trafford to help the team see out their 1-0 Europa League victory over Manchester United. He also started in the 2-1 win over Omonia Nicosia, while he has featured in all six of La Real's LaLiga Santander matches played before the September international break, contributing two assists.
The Basque club's fans have been impressed by his explosive speed, his supreme technical ability with both feet and his humble work ethic. Although Cho prefers to play as a wide forward, ideally on the right flank, he can perform in any position across the forward line, even at centre-forward. Given the unfortunate injury to summer signing Umar Sadiq, Cho is likely going to spend a lot of the next few months as Imanol Alguacil's No.9, so goals should follow.
He has selected the perfect club for developing his game, as Real Sociedad have a strong culture of bringing through talented youth prospects and converting them into professionals. They have done that with their own academy graduates such as Antoine Griezmann or Mikel Oyarzabal, while they've also acted as a finishing school in recent years for other talents like Martin Ødegaard or Alexander Isak.
Cho has already achieved a lot, as evidenced by the fact that CIES Football Observatory named him the fifth hottest outfield prospect born in 2004 or after or the fact that he made the 60-man cut of candidates for the 2022 Golden Boy award. Cho's footballing idols are Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé and he certainly has what it takes to follow in their footsteps to become the next French superstar. The sky really is the limit and Real Sociedad will help the teenager to unlock his full potential.