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Roony Bardghji: Europe's elite preparing to fight over record-breaking Swedish wonderkid

12:00 GMT 17/12/2021
Roony Bardghji NXGN GFX
The 16-year-old winger, who is interesting the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is already thriving in the FC Copenhagen first team

"Remember the name – Wayne Rooney!"

It is a line of commentary, delivered by Clive Tyldesley, that has been sewn into the fabric of modern English football since 2002, as the then-16-year-old Rooney fired home a long-range strike for Everton against Arsenal for his first Premier League goal.

Rooney, of course, went onto become both England and Manchester United's all-time top goalscorer, and though there are those that feel that his career did not quite hit the heights many hoped it would when he first announced himself to the world 19 years ago, he became a household name around the globe off the back of that moment.

Fast-forward to the present day, and there is a new 16-year-old Roony (not Rooney) who is making a similar impact, this time in Scandinavia; a player some believe has the potential to match his almost-namesake's notoriety around the world.

Roony Bardghji – who generally goes solely by his first name – was less than two weeks clear of his 16th birthday when he cut inside from the right before unleashing a 25-yard shot into the bottom corner to open his FC Copenhagen account in late November, becoming the youngest goalscorer in Danish top-flight history in the process.

It marked the latest milestone moment on a path that seems destined to end with the winger turning out for one of Europe's elite clubs – many of whom are already chasing his signature.

Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax have all already sent scouts to watch Roony in action, and others are set to follow suit when Copenhagen's season resumes in February.

Born in Kuwait to Syrian parents, Roony's footballing education formally began after he moved to Sweden as a seven-year-old, and after spells at a couple of local amateur sides, he joined Malmo in 2019.

Despite being just 14 at the time, he was thrown straight into the club's Under-19s team, and he immediately looked right at home.

"What mainly struck me was his dedication in wanting to get better and train," Malmo U19s coach Jeffrey Aubynn told Sportexpressen.

"Then, he had qualities in his technique, his game understanding and how he combined with team-mates which were at an incredibly high level considering his age."

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A year on from Roony's arrival at Malmo, he was being whisked away to Copenhagen, who offered the teenager an astronomical signing-on fee and salary that it is claimed broke all the unofficial rules when it came to transferring a player so young.

Chelsea were also rumoured to be keen at the time, but the Danish outfit – who have prioritised youth development in recent years – were desperate to get the deal over the line after missing out on Roony's fellow Scandinavian wonderkid, Andreas Schjelderup of FC Nordsjaelland.

Like at Malmo, Roony began life at FCK in the U19s, where he scored three goals and provided three assists in his first 11 games during the 2020-21 campaign.

He backed that up with four goals in the first nine games of this season, before being called-up to the first-team squad by manager Jess Thorup in November.

Danish Superliga rules do not allow players to make their senior debuts until they turn 16, but Thorup was not about to waste any time or gradually ease Roony into the men's game, instead naming the teenager in his starting line-up against AGF just six days on from his birthday celebrations.

That made him the youngest debutant in Copenhagen history, before he backed that up a week later with his headline-grabbing goal against AaB.

So, what makes Roony – who, perhaps predictably, has been dubbed 'the Swedish Messi' by some media outlets due to his penchant to play off the right before coming inside onto his stronger left too – so special?

"He has exceptional qualities that stand out," explained Sweden U17s manager, Roger Franzen, to Sportexpressen.

"He has an understanding of the game, as well as good balance and coordination, which means that he has exceptional technique with the ball at his feet. It's incredibly difficult to take the ball off him.

"He is good one on one and has a good shot. He can shoot with both feet, even if he is basically left-footed, he can finish with the right as well. That makes him very difficult to read for the defenders. Will he go right or left? It makes him difficult to handle."

Franzen, under whom Roony has scored five goals in his first six U17 caps, also addressed those Messi comparisons, saying: "There are many good players and you never know how it will work out for them. Our best of all time (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) did not play a youth international match until he made four appearances in U19s. Emil Forsberg also did not make an international appearance until he reached the U19s.

"I do not want to draw parallels, it is not fair. But Roony has a very big potential. He does the right things every day, and that's why he's come this far already."

As for what Roony's immediate future holds, Copenhagen are keen to play hardball should any of the interested parties lodge a bid over the course of 2022, with it reported that the club will demand a fee in the range of £8-11.5 million ($10.7-15m).

Instead, Thorup is keen to bed him into a Copenhagen side that already includes other talented teenagers such as Iceland international Isak Bergmann Johannesson and Danish duo Victor Kristiansen and William Boeving.

"It is not the intention that they (Copenhagen's young players) should just be here for a few matches and then move on," Thorup told Tipsbladet following Roony's headline-grabbing introduction. "They should preferably stay here for a few years and help FCK achieve good results.

"But when the time is right and the really big clubs are there, then that can be the springboard. But right now, he's just going to play a hell of a lot of games for FCK and make a difference, and that's hopefully what we'll see."

Given the way he has begun life as a first-team player, the signs are good that Roony will be a difference-maker for Copenhagen, even if his talent means that he will be forced to move on in the not-too-distant future.

For now, remember the name – Roony Bardghji.

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