Stoke City stance on Sol Sidibe explained amid Chelsea, AC Milan and Juventus transfer talk

Sol Sidibe has made eight first team appearances already at Stoke City.
-Credit: (Image: Phil Greig)

Sol Sidibe is being primed to be a genuine part of the Stoke City first team squad next season. The 17-year-old midfielder made his debut for England under-18s yesterday in a 4-2 friendly win over Northern Ireland at St George's Park.

He is playing above his age group but he has had to be patient for that cap. He grew up in Stoke-on-Trent - where his dad Mama was a Stoke promotion hero - but has held a French passport and has only just acquired British citizenship.

He has been on Stoke's books since he was at primary school, supports the club and has long been eyed as a potential star. Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United are reported to have been among his suitors over the years, but he, his family and their advisers have seen a pathway at the bet365 Stadium.

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He made his Stoke debut at the age of 16 years and 176 days in August last year - as a substitute in a 4-1 opening day win over Rotherham - and became the second youngest player ever to make a league appearance for the club. He is club's third youngest player in all competitions, behind Emre Tezgel and Peter Bullock.

There were a couple of injuries and illness but he still made eight first team appearances, including seven before he turned 17 in February. He ended the season on the pitch too, coming off the bench in a 4-0 final day win over Bristol City. He has been standing out for the under-21s in Premier League 2 too.

Links have emerged recently about interest from across the UK and Europe. The Daily Mail suggested that Chelsea, Rangers and AC Milan "were keeping an eye on Sidibe's situation" while Foot Mercato, in France, have claimed there is interest from Chelsea, Juventus, Rangers, Monaco and Brighton.

But Steven Schumacher has Sidibe as part of his senior plans and the teenager will be reporting with the first team when pre-season starts at Clayton Wood this summer.

Schumacher said at the end of term: "I would have liked to have played Sol a bit earlier in the season but the way results panned out it's not fair to throw a 17-year-old lad into your team when you're fighting for your lives. He was brilliant when he came on (against Bristol City). I didn't think he put a foot wrong, didn't pass the ball away once. It was an excellent performance from him and he's one for the future. He's been one of the best players in Ryan (Shawcross) and Alex (Morris)'s under-21s team all season so I'm delighted for him."

Stoke have a crop of teens with high potential who hope to knock on Schumacher's door over the next 18 months or so. Keeper Tommy Simkin has played for England under-19s, Tezgel and Nathan Lowe, both aged 18, have been called up for their country too while Jaden Dixon, aged 17, is currently with England for the under-17s European Championship.

Sidibe was named after Mama's dad. Mama won 14 caps for Mali, having been born there before moving to the southern suburbs of Paris at the age of two - and then on to Swansea at the age of 21. He was a major player under Tony Pulis as Stoke won their place in the Premier League in 2008. He scored rare but vital goals in the promotion season as he proved the perfect foil for Ricardo Fuller's magic - and he lifted the roof in the first home game up with an injury time header to seal a 3-2 win over Aston Villa. He is still at Stoke and works in the club's recruitment department.

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