Top football clubs in battle to sign 11-year-old prodigy

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The Independent Football

His football skills are so impressive that Europe's biggest clubs, from Manchester United to Ajax, are chasing his signature for next season. Such are his talents that agents have suggested a price tag of £5m. Not bad for an 11-year-old schoolboy.

Until recently, Adam Pepper, the captain of Liverpool schoolboy under-12s, had indulged his passion for the game by playing for local boys' sides and practising with his elder brother in the back garden of his family home in the Kirkdale area of Liverpool.

The nearest he had come to his idols, the Premiership side Everton - and their 17-year-old England prodigy Wayne Rooney, was attending games with his father at Goodison Park. But now Adam, who is being touted as "Rooney 2", is the subject of so much attention that his parents have hired him his own agent. Adam's father, Ronnie, 41, a community sports worker, who was once a schoolboy player for Everton, said: "I've stopped taking Adam to games now because I just get pestered by agents and club officials all the time; they talk through the match. I want him to wait until he is old enough to cope with the knocks as well as the luxuries that football brings."

The family have been approached by no fewer than eight Premiership sides, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Blackburn and Manchester City, inquiring whether Adam would be interested in joining their junior sides. Interest has also been shown by Celtic and Rangers and the Dutch club Ajax.

Although the rules of football's governing body, Fifa, mean that no money can change hands for a player aged under 16, those interested in the services of the midfield playmaker have made clear their admiration.

So far Adam has received at least a dozen pairs of complimentary football boots, including a pair from David Beckham, a birthday card from Ryan Giggs and personal visits from Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard, as well as VIP match tickets and offers of trips abroad.

Although slightly puzzled by all the attention, Adam has made it clear he is largely unfazed. He said: "I don't know what all the fuss is about," he said. "I am always being sent new pairs of boots; we've had to turn the shed into a boot room there's so many. They ask which type I like wearing best but I just like wearing black ones."

In the short term, the return for clubs for securing the signature of a promising youngster is limited to a useful addition for their junior teams. But in the longer term, even a player as young as 16 can be worth millions.

Adam's agent, Peter McIntosh, who acted for Rooney before he signed for Everton, said: "Adam is a level-headed lad with a very bright future. But he is still a kid. His parents want to protect him from all this exposure until he is ready, which is why he won't be signing for anybody just yet."

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