By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City will test Crewe Alexandra’s resolve to hang on to wonderkid Nick Powell this summer, Goal.com can reveal.
The three Premier League giants are ready to make bids for the prolific 18-year-old forward, who is rated in the £1.5 million bracket by the League Two club.
But Crewe have rebuffed a string of enquiries from leading top tier clubs for their prize asset in recent months and are adamant they will hang on to him until at least next year.
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The perpetual motion machine that is the Crewe academy produces at a rate so prolific that it takes a truly special player to make the Gresty Road faithful stand up and take notice. There’s little doubt that Powell has the potential to be just that.
Crewe’s transformation under Steve Davis, since his appointment as manager in November, has been driven in large part by a number of truly exciting local academy products with Ashley Westwood (21), Luke Murphy (22) and Max Clayton (17), amongst others, all born within five miles of The Alexandra Stadium.
That Powell stands out is a testament to what is clearly an innate ability to control football matches in a league not always accommodating to technically gifted youngsters. The midfielder’s slight frame, rather than limit him, adds to his elegance, with his constant, intelligent movement creating space for his team-mates.
That said, Powell is a player aware of his own ability and at times takes a less altruistic approach, often resulting in passages of play gleaming with individual brilliance. His 30-yard wonder goal against Gillingham last month would possibly be noted as the best in the division this season, were it not for an even better piledriver away to AFC Wimbledon in the autumn. Such strikes put Powell in the spotlight, but his all-round ability suggests he is more than ready for a grander stage
“All the big clubs are looking at Nick Powell,” a source close to the situation told Goal.com.
“There have been approaches from Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as Manchester City. But they have been told he is not available.
“Crewe rate him in the seven figure category, even up to £1.5m but they don’t want to sell and Dario Gradi is adamant he won’t leave. Historically, he is very good at persuading young players to serve their apprenticeships before moving to the big clubs.”
Director of football Gradi, who spent 26 years as manager in two different spells before stepping down last November to concentrate on the academy, has brought through a series of internationals during his 29-year association with the club, including David Platt, Geoff Thomas, Neil Lennon, Rob Jones, Robbie Savage, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson, David Vaughan and Dean Ashton.
Powell is believed to be regarded by the club as the most accomplished attacker to have come through their ranks since former England international Ashton, who was sold for £3m to Norwich City in 2005.
“Ashton is a good example of Crewe holding on to a player that most other lower leagues clubs would have sold far earlier,” the source added. “Ashton was highly sought after for a long time before Dario let him go.”
Powell, who is a regular in the England youth set-up, has made waves in the lower leagues since making his first-team debut five months after his 16th birthday.
Comfortable in all of the attacking midfield positions, the 6ft teenager can also double up as a striker and has weighed in with 11 league goals this season. Powell also won the Football League Young Player of the Month award for December.
The source said: “He can play either as an attacking midfielder or striker but will probably eventually mature into a playmaker. All the indications are that he will become a top player.”Follow Wayne Veysey on