Ajani Burchall signs with Premier League club Aston Villa
Ajani Burchall has vowed to continue working hard towards his professional football ambitions after becoming the fifth Bermudian to be signed by an English Premier League club.
The promising winger has joined top-flight outfit Aston Villa from Sky Bet Championship side Bournemouth after agreeing to the terms of an undisclosed deal his former club have described as a “substantial compensation fee”.
“Excited to announce I have signed for @AVFCOfficial,” Burchall wrote on the social-media network Twitter. “The hard work will continue and can’t wait for the season.”
Villa made the announcement officlal yesterday that the 16-year-old has joined their academy from Bournemouth.
“Ajani is a wide attacking player who can also play centrally,” Mark Harrison, the Villa academy manager, commented on the club’s official website.
“He has joined us from Bournemouth where he made his debut last season at 16 years of age.
“We would like to place on record our thanks to Bournemouth for their handling of the process.
"We look forward to seeing how Ajani develops over the next few years.”
Among those congratulating Burchall after the news of his big signing broke was Bristol City striker Nahki Wells.
“Well done kid!” the Bermuda captain wrote on Twitter. “Grind time!”
Burchall joined Bournemouth in 2019 after being offered a pre-scholarship to join their academy.
The former Bermuda Under-15 forward, who still attends school, made an historic debut for Bournemouth’s first team against Wells’s former club Huddersfield Town in the Championship at the Vitality Stadium last December.
Aged 16 years and 37 days, the former North Village youth player became the youngest Bermudian to appear in the English Football League and the third-youngest Bournemouth player behind Jimmy White and Jayden Stockley after coming on as a late substitute in a 5-0 win over visiting Huddersfield.
Before then Clyde Best was the youngest Bermudian player to appear on the big stage in England, aged 18 years and 182 days on August 25, 1969, when he made his debut for West Ham in a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal.
Best had eclipsed by about 100 days Arnold Wollard, who was the first Bermudian to turn professional 20 years earlier – with Northampton Town on June 1, 1949 before establishing himself fully at Newcastle United, ironically after a spell at Bournemouth.
Burchall turned down a scholarship offer from Bournemouth in February to pave the way for a free transfer away from the club, which he confirmed on social media.
“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.”
Villa beat out several Premier League rivals, including Arsenal, Leeds United, West Ham United and Crystal Palace, who were reported to be keen to capture the player’s signature.
With Britain no longer part of the European Union after Brexit, and overseas transfers now more complicated to complete, English clubs such as Villa are reportedly focusing their attention on “home-grown” talent.
Burchall’s signing comes two days after compatriot Ne-Jai Tucker, 18, signed his first professional contract with Burnley.
Nathan Trott and Remy Coddington, of West Ham United, and Kane Crichlow, of Watford, are the remaining Bermudians signed by English top-flight clubs.