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The Garang Kuol hype train is picking up speed

It’s not every day an Australian teenager can count Barcelona, Chelsea, Newcastle and several more European clubs as interested suitors – but the hype train is growing for the Mariners’ Garang Kuol.

Kuol already has a deal in place to leave Gosford and play in Europe, like older brother Alou. Depending on the add-ons it could break Zeljko Kalac’s 25-plus-year record of highest outbound Australian transfer from the local league.

The Kuol family arrived as South Sudanese refugees and settled in Shepparton, Victoria with brothers Deng and Didi also likely to have professional football careers like their brothers.

The brothers’ start in Australia is owed much to Goulburn Valley Suns coach Craig Carley, who was able to spot the boys’ talent at an early age.

Garang was 15 years old, showing zero fear playing against grown men more than double his age in the Victorian semi-professional leagues.

While Carley was adamant of the family’s skill, professional A-League clubs, most notably in their adopted home state of Victoria, passed on signing them.

This paved the way for one of the A-League’s best clubs at training and developing youth, the Central Coast Mariners, to pounce for the boys’ prized signatures.

Garang Kuol

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Mariners have carefully been managing the work load on their teenage tyro, while his body still develops in terms of muscle and height.

Garang’s movement, change of pace and finishing skills are well beyond his years. Several A-League clubs unfamiliar with the player found out the hard way how devastating he can be last season.

Scoring five goals in under 230 minutes off the bench is no mean feat, however this needs to be taken into context with the fact that Kuol is yet to actually start and complete 90 minutes as well as playing a half of football.

Season 2022-23 will only be his second-ever as a professional player and he has been incredibly lucky to not experience serious or multiple injuries that have wrecked the careers of other players the same age.

The missing endurance will come with harder pre-seasons, but so will the soft tissue injuries that are associated with that. The Mariners will need be careful of his work load, now that a deal is in place to go to Europe.

Kuol has been fast-tracked by European scouts after his eye-catching cameo performance against Barcelona, so much so that an informal discussion was had with Barcelona sporting director Jordi Cruyff.

While the discussions with Barcelona have been informal, the ones with Newcastle United’s sporting director Dan Ashworth have been the opposite.

With interest from multiple European clubs, Garang’s family and his advisors need to make the right choice as to which club can provide the best development pathway and help him reach his full potential – rather than going for the most financially rewarding option.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is a long-time admirer and if Kuol starts the season off with a bang, that could see the prodigy selected as an X-factor in the World Cup squad.

Garang will not officially be able to move until the January 2023 transfer window after he turns 18. In the meantime he may have to cope with ‘second season syndrome’ in the A-League.

No longer will he be an unknown quantity; other clubs’ video analysts will spend significant time dissecting his game apart and developing a defensive counter system to contain his qualities.

Adelaide United has already shown the blueprint on how to stop Kuol in their knockout match against the Mariners in the finals series last year.

With his past behind him and his future move already sorted all Garang has to worry about now is the present.

If Garang Kuol takes his eyes off the prize, he could end up like several highly-touted young Australian footballers whose big European moves amounted to nothing.

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