Kenan Yildiz: Juventus' new teen star who rejected Barcelona & Bayern Munich

Kenan Yildiz NXGN GFX
The 17-year-old, who has previously been compared to Mesut Ozil, has made a fast start to life in Turin

The German cities of Regensburg and Herzogenaurach have very little in common, despite only being around 100 kilometres apart. The former is a Unesco heritage site that is home to around 200,000 people and has little sporting history. The latter is the home of adidas, one of the biggest sportswear brands in the world.

And yet, in 2015, the power brokers at adidas made the trip to Regensburg, so keen were they to sign up one of the city's most talented residents.

At the age of just 10, Kenan Yildiz became one of the youngest footballers to ever sign a contract with a sports brand.

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Now, seven years on, it is becoming clear as to why adidas couldn't wait to tie him down.

Yildiz had been on the books at Bayern Munich for three years before penning his adidas deal, having drawn the attention of scouts with his close control and ability to dribble past opponents with ease.

As he established himself as a play-making No.10, he was likened to Mesut Ozil, though the comparison was also partly made due to Yildiz's Turkish heritage.

At Bayern, Yildiz formed one third of a trio of 2005-born talents behind the forward line that left other top European clubs green with envy, with Paul Wanner having already forced his way into the first-team picture, and Arijon Ibrahimovic expected to join him there soon.

Yildiz, though, has chosen to take another path, and when it became clear in early 2022 that he would not be signing a professional contract at Bayern, the continent's biggest clubs began to swarm.

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For a number of months it seemed that Barcelona were about to secure Yildiz's signature, only for Juventus to swoop in at the final moment with an offer that saw the 17-year-old move to Turin in early July.

"Kenan has been with us for 10 years," Bayern's academy manager, Jochen Saier, said following Yildiz's departure. "The fact that our paths have separated is due to financial factors.

"When Kenan plays in the top flight or in the Champions League, we will be proud of him, because it will be an excellent recognition and a reward for the work we do in the academy."

Despite that diplomatic statement, there is no doubt that Bayern are gutted to have lost one of their top young talents to a European rival.

The 17-year-old may have been hampered by some issues, including an early growth spurt that forced him to get used to his new body shape, as well as accusations that one of his coaches used racist language towards him, Yildiz was a key figure in the Bayern youth ranks in 2021-22.

He began the season with the Under-17s, but after scoring four goals and laying on five assists in his first eight games, was quickly promoted to the U19s as a 16-year-old.

The fact that he would likely have remained at that level, at least to start the season, likely played a role in Yildiz's decision to leave Bavaria, and he has made a perfect start to life at Juve.

Playing for the Bianconeri's U19s at the FC Aesch Tournament in Switzerland, Yildiz was voted Player of the Tournament after scoring four goals, including a stunning hat-trick against Valencia in the final.

His aim now is to force his way into the first-team at Juve, though there is an understanding that is unlikely to happen this season given how long other talented players from the club's academy have been forced to wait.

But given the effort Juve put in and the clubs they had to beat to sign Yildiz, they clearly believe that they have brought in a player who can make a difference at the highest level in the not-too-distant future.

Certainly, adidas believed that in 2015. And now the rest of the world will soon learn why they went to such lengths to tie Kenan Yildiz to their brand.

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