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Record-breaking Arsenal teenager signs first professional contract

Record-breaking Arsenal teenager signs first professional contract
© Reuters
Arsenal announce that 17-year-old midfielder Ethan Nwaneri, the Premier League's youngest-ever player, has signed his first professional contract.

Arsenal have announced that record-breaking teenager Ethan Nwaneri has signed his first professional contract with the club.

The 17-year-old became the youngest player in Premier League history when he was brought on as a late substitute in a 3-0 win over Brentford in September 2022, at just 15 years and 181 days old.

Nwaneri surpassed Liverpool's former Fulham starlet Harvey Elliott as the competition's youngest-ever player, and he has been in and around the first team ever since that historic outing.

The Englishman made his second senior appearance in the 6-0 crushing of West Ham United in February, while he has been directly involved in nine goals in as many Premier League 2 matches for the Under-21s, seven of his own and two assists.

It was reported that Nwaneri - who signed scholarship terms last year - would pen his first professional deal after returning from England Under-17s duty, having celebrated his 17th birthday on March 21.

"Nwaneri will thrive on and off the pitch"

On Thursday afternoon, the Gunners confirmed that Nwaneri had signed on the dotted line, and academy manager Per Mertesacker - a former FA Cup winner with Arsenal - hailed the teenager's "seamless transition" to first-team football.

"We are extremely proud of Ethan and his journey, from pre-academy to Hale End, then a seamless transition to Sobha Realty Training Centre and then making his first team debut," Mertesacker told arsenal.com.

"Ethan's journey now continues, and we will all be there alongside him to support his development. Ethan has a strong ability to master the ball, dominate possession and is really effective in the final third, which fits into our playing style at Arsenal Football Club.

"He is someone that will thrive on and off the pitch as a Strong Young Gunner and we look forward to working with him during his ongoing development in the years to come."

Nwaneri was just eight years old when he pulled on the Arsenal shirt for the first time in 2015, and the teenager confessed that he did not have to think twice before committing his future to the North London giants.

Nwaneri hails Arsenal contract as a "dream"

"I'm delighted to have finally got to this stage after all the hard work over so many years," Nwaneri added. "It's a proud moment for me and my family to finally be here, so I'm happy and ready to keep working.

"It was the dream to get to this stage. I've always thought about when this day would come and I've been looking forward to it, so I'm happy it's finally here. I didn't have to think about it - this is my family and it feels like home here. Everyone's like a family together and they care about everyone. It feels so special to me here.

"All the people around me have helped me get better as a person, and definitely helped me develop as a player on the pitch. The opportunities from Mikel, all the under-21 coaches, under-18s coaches - they've all helped me develop so I'm grateful to them."

Nwaneri's first professional contract comes after Arsenal tied Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu down to new long-term deals, while Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Magalhaes, William Saliba, Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Odegaard and Reiss Nelson have also signed on the dotted line since the start of last season.

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Ethan Nwaneri in action for Arsenal in September 2022
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