'Festy Ebosele can be a superstar' - Introducing the Irish youngster Wayne Rooney has tipped for the top

Festy Ebosele HIC 16:9Getty

When Wayne Rooney arrived at Championship outfit Derby County in January 2020, he was immediately made club captain - and none of his new team-mates complained. Why would they? He was a Manchester United and England legend - they had nothing but respect for him. But maybe too much, at least from his perspective. In training, his team-mates appeared almost afraid to tackle him too hard. Well, all but one.

Just like everyone else in the Derby dressing room, Festy Ebosele held Rooney in the highest esteem; he was overjoyed to have him at the club. But the Irishman was also curious to find out whether he could take the ball off one of the modern game's truly great forwards. So, he did his utmost to do exactly that: whenever they were pitted against one another in training, Ebosele got stuck in.

"I remember him saying to me after one session that he was happy that I wasn't scared to kick him," Ebosele tells GOAL, "and push him and lean into him. Because he felt the other players were holding back a bit. But that's not really me, to be honest. I train hard. It doesn't matter who's up against me, I give it my all. 'Train like you play' - that's always been my motto.

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"But I wanted to also prove to myself that I could get the ball off him as well! I don't think I did in the end - he's still Wayne Rooney after all. He wasn't just skilful, he was so strong. But I wanted to try at least. And he obviously respected that."

The mix of hard work and fearlessness is the reason why Ebosele is now plying his trade in Italy at just 20 years of age.