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Footballer nets star title and aims for world’s best

PUBLISHED: 10:43 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:37 25 August 2010

A 17-YEAR-OLD who has risen from obscurity to have a crack at football mega-stardom dreams of playing for his country.

A 17-YEAR-OLD who has risen from obscurity to have a crack at football mega-stardom dreams of playing for his country.

Talented former Welling United winger Ben Greenhalgh, from Orpington, beat thousands of young footballers to win Football's Next Superstar.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to his favourite player, £80million football star Christiano Ronaldo, he has won a six-month contract with Italian giants Inter Milan.

The former Darrick Wood pupil met his idol while working as a coach for Mike Delaney Skills Academy, based in Orpington.

Now he looks set to fight for a place among the world's best players at Inter, after he was announced as the winner on Sky TV on Sunday,.

But it will not be an easy road. He is part of the Primavera youth academy team, a development squad of 17 to 20-year-olds trying to win a place in Inter Milan's first team. Coach José Mourinho met the young star, and presented him with his Inter shirt.

Ben said: "The biggest difference will be adapting to life in Italy, training every day with much greater intensity. My whole life will revolve around football.

"Learning the language will probably take a year. I will just have to accept it will take time before I can communicate properly with some of my team-mates."

He added: "When I stop and look back at what has happened over the last year, how far I've come, it's amazing. My ultimate dream would be to play for England."

Mike Delaney, considered one of the world's finest football choreographers, having worked with Beckham, Zidane and others on ad campaigns, revealed he is trying to get the 17-year-old to feature in an advert alongside Ronaldo.

Mr Delaney said: "Ben was one of my coaches and I took him to meet his idol Ronaldo a while ago.

"Working with Ronaldo last Wednesday, I told him what Ben had achieved. Ronaldo has asked me to join him on another ad next month and I'm going to see if it's possible to get Ben on it as well."

He said the young players who Ben coached until recently were excited about him winning Football's Next Superstar.

The 17-year-old had been training with Watford up to Christmas. He flew out to start training with Inter Milan in January, the result of the competition being a closely guarded secret since last October when filming ended.

His mum, Marian, 48, of Tubbenden Lane, said: "The last few months have been a bit surreal. Ben was homesick at first but he's been well looked after by the academy. He's basically eating and training."

Dad Matthew, 50, said: "Even if Ben does not win another contract with Inter, it puts him in a good position when he comes back to England.

"He's got his feet firmly on the ground and realises he will have to work really hard."

Ben's older brother Joe, 21, and sister Rebecca, 19, both now at university, have played for Petts Wood football teams.

martin.sawden@archant.co.uk


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