Garang Kuol has never been in the starting XI for a senior football team.
Yet the Australian teen sensation, who only turned 18 this month, is set to join the world’s richest club Newcastle United.
In a huge vote of confidence in Kuol’s talent, the Premier League club are to set to poach the forward from A-League Men’s side Central Coast Mariners despite him only playing 216 minutes of senior football in his entire career.
This is a remarkable situation for the Goulburn Valley Suns product, who made his national team debut off the bench for the Socceroos against New Zealand in a friendly earlier this month.
Kuol dazzled for Australia, with a electrifying sprint helping earn the second goal, while he also breezed past defenders at will and nearly scored if it wasn’t for Kiwi keeper Oliver Sail.
At club level last season, Kuol scored four goals and an assist in nine substitute appearances, showcasing his lethal finishing and ability to impact games as a 17-year-old.
He also dominated against Barcelona’s world class defenders in a recent cameo for the A-League Men All Stars team.
But Australian football lovers have seen this story before.
There was just as much hype around Daniel Arzani when he broke through in the A-League Men in 2017-18 as a 19-year-old before going to the 2018 World Cup as an impact player for the Socceroos – with Kuol looking likely to have a similar role.
Arzani ended up joining Manchester City in a blockbuster move but was loaned out to Celtic and then struck down by an ACL injury just as he was about to breakthrough into the first team.
His career abroad never got going and he is now back in the A-League Men at 23 looking to rejuvenate his career and get the opportunity to appear at this World Cup.
There are other cautionary tales.
Daniel De Silva looked set for superstardom when he was signed by Serie A giants Roma in 2015 at 17 years of age, but the move was cancelled because the Italians failed to pay the transfer fee.
After spending 18 months on loan at Eredivisie side Roda, De Silva found himself back in the A-League Men competition and at 25 years old, is starting to make his mark as a consistent player.
Brisbane Roar’s Kwame Yeboah lit up the A-League Men with two goals in his 10 matches as a teenager in 2013-14, before earning a move to Bundesliga giant Borussia Monchengladbach.
However, Yeboah failed to play a match in a competition above Germany’s third division, before returning to Australia for three solid seasons with the Wanderers and retiring at the age of 28.
One Australian who made the transfer to a big club in Europe at a young age and went on to have a successful career abroad is Socceroos legend Brett Holman, who joined Dutch giants Feyenoord when he was 18.
When asked about what Kuol should consider when making a move abroad, Holman had some sound advice: Make sure you research the club you are joining and their process in developing players.
While Holman never actually played a senior match for Feyenoord, he had a guaranteed path to senior football through their feeder club Excelsior and this allowed him to develop his talents via consistent game time.
“You have to investigate at where you are ending up [when you make a transfer],” Holman told The Sporting News.
“You need to be playing games at a young age. For me that was such an important thing – game time.
“I joined Feyenoord – a big club where Brett Emerton was – but there was a plan with the feeder club Excelsior to give young talent games of football.
“If I was to give advice to younger players, obviously it can go pear-shaped wherever you go, but you have to investigate where you are going to move to and find out if there is potential, how many players they have there in different positions, whether it’s your position they are overloaded in.
“You need to play minutes when you are young.”
Kuol is a super talent, perhaps the best we have seen come through since Harry Kewell, but he is going to have to convert that potential into world class performances if he wants to play regularly as a forward for Newcastle United, a club that has almost unlimited resources with their Saudi ownership.
To play first team football this season, the Aussie would have to usurp the likes of Alexander Isak, who Newcastle signed for a club record £63m, while Callum Wilson, Chris Wood and Allan Saint-Maximin will all be in the team ahead of him.
And then Kuol has to contend with the fact Newcastle’s riches will allow them to buy strong players for positions, instead of promoting youth, with only the best of the best talent likely to get a sniff in the first team.
If Newcastle have a plan to loan Kuol out to a club where he is guaranteed to play first team football, then that’s a decent scenario.
But as Arzani said in a recent interview, when you are on loan at a club, sometimes they don’t care much about you because at the end of the day, you are not their player.
Recent success for Aussies moving abroad has seen them join lesser European clubs before developing and adjusting to senior football and working their way to the top.
Mat Ryan started at Belgium’s Club Brugge, Aaron Mooy joined Championship side Huddersfield Town, Ajdin Hrustic came through the Eredivisie with Groningen, while Awer Mabil honed his talents at Denmark’s FC Midtjylland.
If Kuol signs for Newcastle United, only time will tell if it’s the right decision, but Australian fans will be rooting for his success because we are crying out for a football superstar.