For the next seven months, Adelaide United will be busy preparing teenage sensation Nestory Irankunda for his high-profile move to one of the biggest football clubs in the world.
And as the Reds get to work, club CEO Nathan Kosmina has urged Australian football fans to come along and enjoy the show.
The 17-year-old has signed for German Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich on a deal that will net the Reds a club-record fee – but the winger will stay in Adelaide until the end of the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season.
FIFA rules do not permit players to move to overseas clubs prior to turning 18, and Irankunda’s 18th birthday is not until February 2024.
FULL DETAILS: Nestory Irankunda to Bayern Munich confirmed
It leads to a unique situation, says club CEO Kosmina, set to benefit all Australian football fans who hope to catch a glimpse of one of the most highly-rated young players to have been produced on our shores.
“Nestor is only 17, unable to transfer before his 18th birthday which is in February,” said Kosmina.
“So we’re in a unique position that we get to see a future Bayern Munich player playing at Coopers Stadium for the next seven months.
“There’s 10 more home games here, so that’s important for our fans to enjoy, but also for Nestor as well in terms of his development.”
There are 23 rounds left to play in the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season, not including the Finals Series. Adelaide sit fifth after four games.
Irankunda had never started a professional game before this season, and ticked off that milestone under Veart in Round 1; he’s since started in all three of his appearances for the Reds, earning October’s Young Footballer of the Year nomination.
His first month of football in the new campaign is only the start of a pivotal season in his development in which the club aims to prepare him as best as they can for what lies ahead.
“He’s got a long pathway to prepare himself for the cultural and football shift that comes with moving to Europe, so that’s the next phase for us now and Carl and the team will continue to work through that,” said Kosmina.
“But the exciting element is we’ll be playing plenty more games with Nestor in the squad.”
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And that’s where Veart comes in.
The coach who gave Irankunda his first scholarship contract at the Reds aged 15, and his A-Leagues debut soon after, admits he’s known that Irankunda is a special talent from the moment he first saw him playing for Croatia Raiders in South Australia.
He takes particular pride in developing young players from the local region, and Irankunda – who moved to Adelaide from Perth with his family as a teen before first deciding to pick up a football – is no exception.
“We want to develop our young players, especially young South Australian players, and provide them a platform they can go on and express themselves,” Veart said.
“There’s no greater joy for myself as a coach, and all of our supporters as well, to see these young players from South Australian, local clubs, to come through and go on to the big stage.
“I’m proud of what Nestor has achieved so far, but his challenge now is to do more.
“He’s an exciting young player and it’s important we understand he’s still quite a young player, we don’t put too much expectation on him, and that’s credit to him so far that he’s dealing with a lot of that expectation that our supporters and everyone is demanding from him.
“But we’ve got to remember he’s still 17, he’s still learning the game and he’s allowed to play the game with a smile on his face, and experiment when he’s out there to work out what does and doesn’t work.”
This week’s episode of A-Leagues All Access will take you inside Nestory Irankunda’s transfer to Bayern Munich. Watch it on aleagues.com.au this Thursday.
Kosmina revealed the club the turned down offers from the top five leagues in Europe for Irankunda, with Bayern becoming the destination of choice with Irankunda’s long-term benefit in mind.
“It’s a club record transfer fee… but it was very much a considered process,” Kosmina said.
“We had interest from all over the world, the top five leagues in Europe. Clubs were very interested in Nestor. Not many players at his age have the hype reel and the success he’s had.
“But we were very considered in terms of what’s the best pathway for Nestor and his family. That’s why we were quite considered in our discussions with Bayern and a number of clubs, and looking at the non-financial aspects of the deal, and what the pathway then looks like. What we want for our young players – and you’re starting to see it now with our boys that have gone overseas in the last few years – is sustained careers in Europe.”
Veart shares an aligned view on the benefits of the transfer due to Bayern’s track record with developing young talent.
“The understanding is he will go there and they’ll look after him. They’ll put him in their accommodation for the first 12 months so he doesn’t have to worry about cleaning, cooking, all that other stuff. They’ll really look after him,” Veart said.
“They’re one of the biggest clubs in the world. They have a great history of developing young players, and I think that’s another reason why Nestor and the club have gone down this path with Bayern.
“I know Nestor wants to hit the ground running when he gets there. He wants to have an opportunity to play in their first team. This is what his next seven months here at Adelaide United is all about, getting him ready to make that next step.”
As Kosmina sat alongside Irankunda and Veart to address the former’s move to Bayern on Wednesday afternoon, the club chief noted that, although Irankunda is the shining example of Adelaide’s youth policy, he’s just one member of a crop of emerging talent that he, together with Veart and the coaching staff, are bullish about selling overseas to enjoy substantial careers in Europe.
“We’re now on a pathway… we’ve been saying for the last 18 months that we’ve got an exceptional group of young players coming through at the moment,” Kosmina said.
“Nestor is at the top end of that, as he’s now had a few years of experience. But there are others coming through we think can also make that step in the next couple of years as well.”