Aston Villa have been so impressed with Linfield’s emerging talent that they have embarked on a double foray into Windsor Park.
The Premier League side have snapped up Linfield teenage star Cole Brannigan and have now moved on for his Northern Ireland Under-16 team-mate Calum Moreland.
Center Moreland is another of the club’s young gems who are being polished at the Blues Academy.
Villa beat off competition from Premier League champions Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Leeds United to land Brannigan and Moreland now looks set to link up with the club now managed by Unai Emery.
Moreland (15) has also turned up for Northern Ireland’s under-17 side managed by Gerard Lyttle and scored in a 2-1 Euro 2023 qualifying win in Malta in October.
The under-17s have secured a place in the elite qualifying phase for Euro 2023 in Hungary.
Linfield Swifts boss Michael Gault says Villa have shown faith in the promising duo.
“Cole is going to Villa, as is the great Calum Moreland,” said the former Blues skipper.
“He is a great centre-half who has played with us and is a brilliant player.
“Villa have obviously kept an eye on the young talent at the club and great credit to the lads who are working hard on their game.
The Blues’ production line seems to be picking up pace as more young aces draw attention.
Midfielders Callum Burnside, a De La Salle student, and Boys’ Model student Blaine McClure also have promising prospects.
Liam McStravick’s first professional contract at the club has also highlighted a pathway to the first team for emerging talent.
A feature under David Healy’s management at Linfield has been the conveyor belt of young talent moving through the water. Brannigan and Moreland are the latest in a growing line of players to earn a move, with Callum Marshall and Josh Briggs previously at West Ham and Ruairi McConville joining Brighton.