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That time Real Madrid signed a boy from Sussex… and where he is now

He was the English wonderkid that got snapped up by Real Madrid at the age of seven.

But whatever happened to him?

Niall Mason’s childhood was the stuff of dreams. As a seven year old, he was happy enough playing for his local Sunday team in Brighton.

But on holiday in Spain, his life got flipped, turned upside down.

Enjoying a kickabout at a kids’ football camp in Spain, a Real Madrid scout spotted his potential and immediately signed him for Madrid’s Youth Academy.

At just seven years old, Niall was the youngest by three years at the Bernabeu.

Niall Mason

But he was so talented, Real bosses bent the rules that limited entry to eight year olds and over.

It was 2004 and the only other English player at Madrid was some wannabe called David Beckham.

David Beckham

“Beckham used to regularly visit the academy,” says Mason. “As I was the only other English player there, we often chatted and he encouraged me.

“At the time, Zinedine Zidane’s two sons were my team-mates – Enzo was the captain and Luca the goalkeeper. It was an amazing experience and something I’ll never forget.”

Zinedine Zidane

After his family moved back from Spain, Mason returned with them and joined the Blackburn Rovers academy where he captained the Under 14 side before signing for Southampton.

But earlier this year, Aston Villa swooped to sign the 18-year-old prodigy on a pro contract and now the gifted galactico is a regular in Villa’s Under-21 team, playing as a cultured defender.

Niall Mason

Given the state of Villa’s defence, it’s surely only a matter of time before the boy wonder comes to Remi’s rescue.

Niall Mason

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