On a humid Budapest evening earlier this season, a game between MTK Budapest and Újpest FC looked to be heading into a stalemate.
But MTK coach, Giovanni Costantino, was desperate to conjure a result and decided to throw his final dice by putting 16 year old Zalán Vancsa on the pitch with 20 minutes to go.
“At the end of the first half, we were 0-0, I said to him be ready because you will come in and decide the match,” Costantino said.
Little did he know, that 20 minutes later as the game ebbed into extra time, he would be right.
Vancsa pounced onto a loose ball about 30 yards from goal, he controlled the ball and broke into the penalty area, before calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net showing maturity beyond his years.
That goal made Vancsa MTK’s youngest goal-scorer in the top flight in 100 years and the sixth youngest in Hungary’s top tier overall aged 16 years and nine months, just one month older than Hungary’s legendary, Ferenc Puskás.
By then, scouts — including Manchester City’s Milan Holub — were closely tracking the teenager who had been training with MTK’s first team since he was 15 and who caught the eye in a Hungary U17 international fixture against Serbia in which he netted a brace and registered an assist.
But it was only a few weeks later that Vancsa really broke onto the scene in the UEFA Youth League.
In late September and early October, Vancsa led his MTK U19 side past Sparta Prague in the first round of the UEFA Youth League scoring four goals and registering two assists in the two-game tie.
He followed that up with another goal in Budapest in a 2-1 defeat to Genk before his side bowed out of the competition.
A winger, who is explosive on the ball and blessed with excellent technical attributes, Vancsa is adept at counter-pressing and has scored a plethora of his goals this season by winning the ball himself before going on a mazy run towards goal. His direct style of him is similar to many of City’s current wingers under Pep Guardiola, with Vancsa comparable to the likes of Raheem Sterling or Phil Foden, and is capable of playing on either flank.
He is potent in front of goal, too, and has averaged 0.43 goals per 90 for MTK’s senior side this season, as well as top-scoring Hungary’s U19 league last season.
City made contact with his agent, David Manasseh of ICM Stellar, back in December and the club have held numerous meetings with Vancsa and his representatives about how they envision his future within the City Group.
Other European giants like Sevilla, Bayern Munich and AC Milan all showed interest, but Vancsa was impressed by City’s plans and signed his contract in Manchester.
Once an agreement had been struck with MTK, the 17-year-old traveled to the club’s training ground on Friday where he was given a tour of the Etihad stadium and the training complex. He even met a few City first team players and watched a behind-closed-doors U23 friendly game before signing his contract upon his return to Budapest.
He will join MTK Budapest back on-loan for the remainder of the season, where he will be hoping to feature for the club’s first team on a regular basis, before joining SK Lommel in Belgium during the summer.
Officially, he belongs to The City Group and SK Lommel, with City having to be careful about how many players are registered to the club in light of new FIFA loan regulations. But the club’s staff have high hopes for him, and should he continue his development of him he is a player with potential many in his homeland believe can be on par with the achievements of his compatriot, Dominik Szoboszlai.
However, a lot of hard-work remains until then, and Vancsa will take things step by step.
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