Fulham have completed the signing of Cameroon-born wonderkid Noe Baba, Goal.com can reveal.
The 16-year-old prodigy has signed for the Craven Cottage club, who are waiting for international clearance from Fifa before formally announcing the deal.
|THE VIEW FROM IRELAND
|PETER STAUNTON | GOAL.COM IRELAND
"In our shared hometown of Castlebar, Noe is widely considered to be the best prospect ever to come through the ranks at the town's main football team, Celtic. He consistently excelled during his time with the club, often an age group or two ahead of his time. He first appeared in the Under-12s and rose rapidly through the county and international ranks.
"Most recently, he represented Ireland's Under-19s - a remarkable achievement for a player featuring at a club a long way from the centre of Irish football, Dublin, and Britain, where the majority of his colleagues played. Noe has won plenty of admirers due to his voracious appetite for learning, both on the field and off, and has put a lot of thought into his future. Clubs have been tracking him for the last three or four years but he and his family have bided their time in order to wait for the opportunity which makes most sense."
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Goal.com revealed in November that Baba had agreed terms on a move to west London after they had beaten a host of clubs, including Manchester United, in the race for the youngster.
Fulham have paid Castlebar Celtic in County Mayo a fee of €160,000 (£129,000) to secure Baba, who passed a medical in November and has linked up with the club’s development squad at Motspur Park.
He is Fulham’s second signing this month following 19-year-old central midfielder Chris David, who has joined from FC Twente, although neither is expected to be a serious first-team contender.
Baba was born in Cameroon but moved to Ireland with his family when he was a boy and became the first African player to captain an Irish age-group team when he led the Under-17s.
The teenager, who turned 16 last August, has progressed rapidly through the ranks and was drafted into the Republic of Ireland Under-19 squad in October, making three full appearances for Paul Doolin’s side.
He is highly regarded on both sides of the Irish Sea for his versatility and aptitude. Baba has been frequently used at centre-half but is expected to eventually be deployed as a full-back or midfield anchorman.
The deal is regarded as a coup for Fulham, who moved quickly to complete the transfer in the face of strong competition from a string of clubs, including United, Sunderland and Celtic.