It was a plotline that had those who follow the youth team at Arsenal at the edge of their seats this summer as a young midfielder went through a protracted saga with the club over his future. Alban Bunjaku is a technically gifted left sided player whose pinpoint passing and poise on the ball was perfectly suited to the Arsenal way of playing.
For the clubs under-18s he was regularly impressive yet rarely made the step up to the reserve side. According to some reports that lead to a disagreement near Christmas last year with the coaching staff at the club. It seems that the need to play a higher standard of competitive football saw Alban decide his future lay elsewhere. As a product of the Arsenal youth team where he had been for 10 years since the age of eight any English side attempting to snap up the precocious talent would have to pay Arsenal fair compensation set by a tribunal. So in the end, in pursuit of what he was after he moved to Spain with Sevilla.
Why is this all so interesting to me?
Well as any regular readers will know I have a real fascination with English footballers playing abroad and despite his obviously non-traditional name Bunjaku is indeed English, kind of.
Born in Romford he is one of the first big names when it comes to those families that fled The Balkans during the troubles of the 1990’s to come to the fore in UK football. It is a common theme in Swiss football at the moment where a large expatriation of Albanian and Kosovar habituate and has seen the likes of Xerdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Valon Behrami becoming regular important members of the team.
In England it is less so and the reluctance of England’s youth set-up to call up a technically gifted midfield creator may prove costly as he has recently figured for Albania’s under-19 side. After a lack of perceived desire for Alban in the country he has called home for his entire life it won’t be hard for him to represent Albania at international level.
Let us also not forget that essentially he is Albanian. He may have been born in Essex but his blood is that of Albania and therefore to represent the country of his parents would be a massive honour for the lad.
He may never prove to be up to the standard of the England national football team which would render this discussion redundant but regardless he is now playing in Spain where his technical skills will only be honed. He is still a player raised in this country and we should wish him well in Spain, and with whatever nation he ends up playing for with pride.
What do you make of the story of Alban Bunjaku and do you know of any other talented ex-patriates in the youth system at the moment?
image: © Matt and Kim Rudge