Former West Bromwich Albion forward Kevin Phillips has admitted it will be almost impossible for his old side to keep hold of teenage striker Reyes Cleary if Bayern Munich make an approach for him, speaking to West Brom News.
Scoring an impressive eight goals in 15 U18 Premier League games for the Baggies last term, the 17-year-old is now starting to make the transition to the club’s Under-23s after rising through the ranks at The Hawthorns.
He has adapted well to life in Premier League 2, registering three goals in six displays during 2021/22 thus far and continuing to thrive in the Under-18s as he shares his time between the two age groups.
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Scoring eight goals in five games with the young age group this season though, Reyes has arguably outgrown them at just 17 and has his sights firmly set on continuing to impress in the Under-23s ahead of a potential first-team debut.
However, he could be poached by another team before he gets the chance to impress at a senior level, with Bayern Munich intensifying their interest in the teenage forward and even sending scouts over to keep tabs on him.
Newcastle United, Crystal Palace, Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Southampton are also reported to be interested in his signature, potentially making it tougher for Albion to tie him down to a new contract.
This is something Valerien Ismael’s side want to do, but ex-Baggie Phillips is one man who believes it will be a tall order to persuade him to stay if Bayern come calling.
He told West Brom News: “It would take something special for West Brom to be able to keep hold of him if Bayern Munich come knocking on the door. I did read about that.
“It’s not ideal. When you bring one through, you don’t want to lose them but, unfortunately, that’s football at the minute.
“Some of these young lads get their heads turned by agents and the draw of playing for Bayern or being involved in their set-up, it’s a huge thing to be able to turn down.
“It is football but you’d like to think that somewhere down the line, someone will advise him to stick where you are because you’ll probably have more first-team opportunities here than at Bayern.
“But sometimes the lure is too much so let’s hope the kid, whatever decision he makes, he makes the right one.”
There’s certainly a first-team pathway for Cleary at West Brom, so he would be well served putting pen to paper on his first professional contract despite interest from elsewhere.
It’s much easier sitting at a desk and saying that when it isn’t your own future at stake, especially with a potentially exciting move to Bayern Munich on the horizon, but he looks like a player that could make his senior breakthrough soon after impressing in the academy.
If he did want a permanent move away though amid current interest in his signature, he would probably be better-served joining Crystal Palace for more first-team opportunities as opposed to a side like Newcastle, who are likely to invest heavily in world-class players under their new owners.
But at 17, there’s still plenty of time for him to improve further before he will be expected to make the jump from youth football to the first team. So if he stays at Albion, he must be developed in the right way.
After adapting well to Under-23s football, there will always be the temptation to send him out on loan to the lower league to gain more senior experience – but officials at The Hawthorns must ensure he is genuinely ready for the experience before sending him out.
Because if he struggles out on loan, that could be a huge confidence blow to a man that has so much hype around him at the moment.