Ajani Burchall confirms Bournemouth departure
Ajani Burchall has confirmed his decision to part ways with Sky Bet Championship side Bournemouth.
The 16-year-old made history when he became the third-youngest player to represent Bournemouth; coming off the bench against Huddersfield Town to make his league debut last December.
While that remains his only first-team appearance, having been thrust into the limelight at such an early age, a number of top-flight clubs were reportedly following his progress. Arsenal, Leeds United, West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa are among those said to be keeping tabs on the winger.
That interest intensified in February after the forward turned down a scholarship offer from Bournemouth, paving the way for a free transfer away from the club.
Despite Bournemouth’s league campaign not being over with the club battling for promotion in the play-offs — starting on Monday in the semi-finals, first leg against Brentford — Burchall has opted to confirm his departure from the South Coast outfit over social media today.
“I have decided to take a different step in my pathway to achieve my dream,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I cannot express my gratitude to the overwhelming support the club gave me throughout the course of my journey with AFC Bournemouth.
“Not a day will pass without remembrance to those who have helped me achieve my career so far. I thank all my team-mates and staff who have helped me be the player I am today.
“Looking forward to the hard work to start next season.”
While Burchall is yet to confirm where he will be plying his trade next season, Villa had reportedly moved ahead of their English Premier League rivals and into pole position in the pursuit of his signature.
While the transfer window does not open until this summer, manager Dean Smith and his backroom staff have reportedly started planning the club’s recruitment for next season
With Britain no longer part of the European Union after Brexit, and overseas transfers now more complicated to complete, English clubs, including Villa, are reportedly focusing their attention on “home-grown” talent, with local media placing the West Midlands outfit out in front in the race for Burchall’s signature.
While Smith has not confirmed the club’s interest in the Bermudian schoolboy, he did reveal a focus on home-grown eligible players, with Burchall falling into the category with Bermuda being a British Overseas Territory.
"We want a British feel about us, but that’s not to say we will turn our noses up at good deals abroad," said Smith, speaking to the Birmingham Mail last month.
"We expect player recruitment to be harder because of Brexit, so young, British talent is what we’re looking for.
"I believe that can improve us and we believe we can improve those players as well.
"We can improve them, their value. The fact that they can see a clear pathway for them now with England will help, too."