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Ex-Man Utd wonderkid John Cofie cost the Red Devils £1m aged 14, retired at 27, and now mentors kids at school

IN 2007, promising striker John Cofie seemingly had the world at his feet. Then 14, the teenager had the world at his feet and was rated as one of the top talents in England playing for Burnley. Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United soon swooped for the wonderkid in an astonishing £1million deal – making […] ...

IN 2007, promising striker John Cofie seemingly had the world at his feet.

Then 14, the teenager had the world at his feet and was rated as one of the top talents in England playing for Burnley.

Getty – Contributor

Sean McGinty, Paul Pogba, Sam Johnstone, John Cofie and Jesse Lingard celebrate winning the FA Youth Cup for Man Utd in 2011[/caption]

Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United soon swooped for the wonderkid in an astonishing £1million deal – making him the youngest ever million pound footballer.

However, he failed to make a single appearance for the Red Devils and left the club in 2013.

Spells at clubs including Barnsley, Crawley Town and Wrexham failed to reignite his career.

At 27, the former England U17 star hung up his boots – having played just 77 times for 13 different clubs.

Today, Ghanaian-born Cofie works at a school in Lancashire, where he mentors kids in their football programme he was once a part of.

WANTED BOY

Cofie was brought over to the UK by Burnley after impressing at a football camp in Germany, where his father served in the army.

He enrolled at Moorland School and was taken under the wing by their Head of Football Development, Charlie Jackson.

Cofie starred at youth level for The Clarets and was soon called the best player of his generation.

Astonishingly, managers from the country’s top clubs would try to visit Cofie at school to convince him to sign for them.

PA:Empics Sport

Cofie was one of the leading players of his generation when he signed for United in 2007[/caption]

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While Cofie was an aspiring star at United, he was mentored by Moorland School coach Charlie Jackson[/caption]

 “It was ridiculous. To name Chelsea and Liverpool doesn’t even begin to tell the story,” Jackson told the Burnley Express.

“There were so many clubs and we had to turn certain managers from big clubs back down the drive.

“They all wanted to speak to him face to face. He was a Liverpool fan as a kid so we thought he was going to go there and then United came in.”

£1MILLION AT 14

In 2007, it was Fergie who won the race to sign the prodigy.

The £1million deal made him the youngest ever million pound footballer and world news.

He continued his development in their youth team, where he would team up with a French boy wonder by the name of Paul Pogba, who he is still pals with today.

And Cofie was an integral part of the club’s FA Youth Cup winning side in 2011.

Jackson believes he was a better player as a kid than World Cup winner Pogba.

Getty – Contributor

Cofie was a member of United’s 2011 FA Youth Cup winning side[/caption]

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Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard are still pals with Cofie[/caption]

“I think at 14 he was the best player,” Jackson said.

“He was better than Pogba. The only player that ran him close was Ravel Morrison, who was an unbelievable talent, but the ups and downs in his world have changed him.”

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

But it was the pressure of the price tag that would take its toll on young Cofie.

His prolific streak in front of goal in his formative years began to desert him with the burden of expectation weighing upon him.

Jackson said: “The price tag was the scary thing and that’s something that I wanted to protect him from.

“The £1.25m price tag at the time was ridiculous for such a young boy and the press got hold of that pretty quickly. I wouldn’t have released that if I was Burnley or Manchester United.

“I think that was probably the beginning of the downfall of how that was going to go in my opinion. That’s the sad thing about football when you’re putting price tags on academy players.

Pacemaker Press

In 2013, Manchester United released Cofie[/caption]

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Jackson believes the price tag put too much pressure on Cofie[/caption]

“It’s just madness. He went there, he was doing well but that price tag, later on, played its part. It’s a lot of pressure.”

END OF THE ROAD

By 2013, Cofie ended up on football’s scrapheap.

He was released by United after several loans away at Royal Antwerp, Sheffield United and Notts County.

During that period, he admittedly “fell out of love” with the game.

“It was no shock to me because as I was growing up I was picking up what happened behind the scenes, going on loan I was getting an idea of what the industry was like,” Cofie told the Manchester Evening News.

Bradley Ormesher – The Sun

After he left United, Cofie became a journeyman footballer[/caption]

Bradley Ormesher – The Sun

Southport FC was one of the many clubs who Cofie tried to resurrect his career at[/caption]

“Nothing in football surprises me, if you’re good enough they will keep you, if not then it’s bye.

“It wasn’t an issue for me when it came. I sat down with Fergie, he was holding meetings with players anyway but I wanted to see him a few weeks earlier, he said what he had to say, I said what I had to say and that was that.

“I left with my head held high.”

THE AFTER LIFE

Once he left United, Cofie became somewhat of a journeyman.

Uninspired spells in Norway, Wales and even Northern Ireland failed to inspire him and game-time and injuries didn’t help his cause.

So, in 2020 – at the age of just 27 – it was no surprise that he decided to hang up his boots.

Now, he has joined his old mentor Jackson again at Moorland School, where he helps coach young kids who aspire to be the next football superstar.

“Because John has played at a good level and played with some of the best players in the world, there’s ready-made advice for the kids,” Jackson explained.

Bradley Ormesher – The Times

In 2020, at the age of just 27, Cofie hung up his boots[/caption]

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Cofie is now back at Moorland School alongside Jackson as a mentor and coach for the kids[/caption]

“It’s great to have him back, his enthusiasm hasn’t changed, he’s still got the same attitude to life, which is good. He’s not allowed football to define him, which is a big thing. Football can do that, good, bad or indifferent.

“It’s been good to bring him back because he’s been able to speak to the kids about his past, present and what could potentially be their future.”

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