South African youngster Thabo Cele has signed a five-year deal with Portuguese giants Benfica.
The 20-year-old joined Real Sport Clube de Massama at the start of the 2016/2017 campaign following his impressive performances with the KwaZulu-Natal Football Academy at the Durban under-19 International Football Tournament.
The midfielder has found the net three times in 21 appearances for Real Sport this season, and his performances have caught the eye of one of Europe’s biggest clubs in Benfica.
Cele will only join The Eagles at the end of the current season.
The KZN Academy managing director Carlos Catalino expressed his delight at Cele's success in Portugal.
"The KZN Academy is proud of Thabo for the hard work and perseverance he has demonstrated‚" Catalino told The Sowetan.
"When Thabo moved to Portugal in August 2016‚ we were apprehensive given his age‚ but he made it clear from the beginning that he was not looking to come back to Durban‚ but to do whatever it took to forge a career for himself in Europe," he said.
"This move to Benfica is a massive boost‚ not only for Thabo but for the academy and the work it seeks to achieve. Our sincere gratitude go to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government‚ eThekwini Municipality and the South African Football Association for having supported this football development project since inception in 2014," he continued.
"We hope Thabo's move will inspire all other young players to work harder and more importantly‚ to be mentally strong to overcome challenges posed by being a professional player. This is just the beginning for him. Now the hard work begins," he concluded.