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Yassin Fortune: Why Lens unsurprised superkid joining Arsenal

If Yassin Fortune does leave France this summer, it'll be met with disappointment at Lens, but not surprise.

It emerged this week that Fortune intended to leave Lens for England this summer, where a three-year contract was waiting for him at Arsenal.

The 16 year-old striker had confirmed his talent on English soil in February, helping France win the U16 UEFA Tournament played at St George's Park. His form had drawn comparisons with Thierry Henry and attracted enquiries from Manchester United. But French sources insist he will turn pro with Arsenal later this summer.

At Lens, the news will be met with disappointment.

Fortune, recruited from Red Star, had been enrolled at the club's Gaillette training centre since he was 13 years of age and regarded in the same class as famed graduates Gael Kakuta (Chelsea), Geoffrey Kondogbia (AS Monaco) and Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).

"French football cannot afford to keep its best young players," laments Gaillette chief Pascal Plancque. "We are hurt by foreign clubs who come over here to buy cheaper young French nuggets.

"It is easier for them to take our best young players who have not yet signed professional contracts."

Fortune is such a case. Though he values his education at Gaillette, "it is one of the best academies in France. I've like it here since day one", Fortune also made it no secret he would use Lens as a stepping stone to the Premier League.

Always played in age groups two years his senior, he stunned watching scouts when as a 15 year-old he scored five goals in ten games for the U17 team - and from midfield.

The impact had French football buzzing - and Fortune being approached by agents eager to represent him. That same season, despite the objection of Gaillette staff, Fortune signed with an agent.

"It was done naturally," recalls Fortune, insisting he's happy to have a representative as a junior player.

"One day, after one of my games, he came to meet my parents."

Such a development was a warning for Plancque and his staff. But they knew Lens would eventually be saying farewell to their talented prospect.

"If a kid leaves early for his first (professional) club, the more they're at risk of failure," says Plancque. "We need a relationship of trust with the family. If there is this relationship of trust, the agent is not necessary.

"Or, we must be realistic and not sell wind to parents. Given the language of agents, it is not easy... "

Fortune has always had ambitions of playing abroad.

"My dream? Playing in England," Fortune told Telefoot.

"I watch a lot of videos of (Raheem) Sterling and (Divock) Origi. Both players are my role models."

The Liverpool link is obvious. But Arsene Wenger and Arsenal's French connection is difficult to resist - even when Manchester United come calling.

Gooners will be hoping Yassin Fortune is more Geoffrey Kondogbia than Gael Kakuta should he accept Wenger's contract offer next month.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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