As Rabbi Matondo becomes the latest British prospect to head for the Bundesliga, Cardiff fans en masse wonder: ‘yeah, what happened there?!’
A Tremorfa boy, Matondo was plucked from the Cardiff academy at 15 by Manchester City in 2016, before he got anywhere near the first team set-up. The reigning Premier League champions have form in this area, having also snapped up Southend prodigy Finley Burns back then. Did I mention that Burns was only 13 at the time?
The fact that rules allow them to do this makes me sick to my stomach, but little clubs getting shafted is nothing new and never going to change. The sickener for Cardiff fans is that the club are finding it hard enough to produce players good enough for the first team and when they finally do, it immediately alerts the magpies.
Imagine how exciting it would be now if Cardiff were throwing on Matondo, now 18, late in games instead of Kadeem Harris. Nothing against Harris, who was quite the prospect himself once upon a time. He was League Two’s Apprentice of the Year when Cardiff signed him from Wycombe, so we can’t be too sanctimonious. Big bank take little bank.
Harris and Joe Ralls are the closest thing Cardiff have to academy graduates, but neither are from the area and both were drafted in pretty late on in their youth development. Adam Matthews is probably the last significant academy graduate and he got away too. He ran down his contract, probably to escape Dave Jones, who never really trusted him, despite his undoubted potential.
It remains to be seen what Cardiff will receive when Matondo’s expected move to Schalke is finalised. He was too young to sign a professional contract, so the club’s share may be around 5% of the mooted £11.5m Manchester City stand to make. Not bad for a player with 12 minutes of senior football to his name.
The Welsh international, who was born in England and represented them at youth level before switching, can still switch back, but insists he won’t and made his senior international debut in the defeat to Albania in November. He now has the chance to emulate Leroy Sane, who progressed through the ranks at Schalke, who are one of the sleeping giants of European football.
The rapid left winger, who scored a hat-trick against Swansea in a Premier League 2 fixture recently, will join the British talent drain that is heading to Germany in search of more faith and playing time. Former City starlet Jadon Sancho has gone on to become one of the most exciting prospects in world football at Dortmund, proving that even Manchester City are on the receiving end sometimes too.
All of which leaves Cardiff fans left to wonder what might have been, and they’ve been doing a fair bit of that recently. Chances are that the club will remain just a footnote in his development, like QPR’s role in Raheem Sterling’s progress. Like Aaron Ramsey before him, we’ll just have to make do with taking pride in his international achievements.