BARNSLEY’S young Portuguese forward Fabio Jalo is undoubtedly one of the hottest prospects in the English Football League at the minute, according to academy boss Bobby Hassell.
Having come through the ranks at Benfica, Jalo joined the Reds in 2019 and his prolific scoring rate for the academy teams earnt him his first senior contract in July 2022, aged just 16.
He’s since gone onto attract a number of suitors, with a six-figure bid rejected for the 17-year-old in the summer from an Italian Serie A club.
But he admits before he moved to the Reds he wasn’t all that aware of the club’s rich history of developing young talent.
He said: “When I first came I wasn’t aware (of the history) but after a few months I started to know a little bit more.
“I’ve got dreams and I want to do the same things (as John Stones) or even better.”
But what does academy boss Bobby think? He has seen many come and go in 18 years at the club.
He told the Chronicle: “It boils down to three things -- injuries, opportunities and mentality.
“John Stones’ mentality was first class and Fabio has a got a long way to go to get to an elite mentality.
“But as a talent he’s as good as anything at Barnsley and I’ve seen Kieran Tripper, John and Danny Drinkwater. But a lot of things can happen in football.”
Bobby said that the academy has been ‘strategic’ with how they develop the Portuguese youngster - and he’s happy to see him get his chance in the first time.
“We’ve known about Fabio and his potential since he was 13,” he added.
“We’ve been strategic with how we develop him.
“He’s had to wait a little to get back into the first team squad but he’s repaid the gaffer with a good performance and a goal (against Horsham).
“It’s no surprise to us - it’s good that he’s able to prove himself.”
But it’s not just Jalo who has been pushing for first-team starts this season - with midfielder Theo Chapman already getting a number of minutes in the league.
“There’s always been opportunity for young players here, even from my time playing,” he said.
“We went a little away from that but they’re starting to get opportunities again. From my perspective in the academy it’s what you want to see.
“The gaffer has paid a keen interest in and he’s been to almost all the 18s and 21s games.
“There’s five or six players in the academy I’d be more than comfortable with going into the first team set-up.
“You’re talking about a small percentage of elite pros who make it (to the Premier League).
“Even to be a footballer the percentage is so low.
“A lot fail and they’re out of the game by 22.
“John Stones is one of the best footballers to come out of the UK and he came from a little town called Barnsley. But I try and focus on others such as Jordan Clark and Jacob Brown. They started in the lower leagues and have made their way to the top.”