Liam Boyce living the dream at Werder Bremen
Liam Boyce put the seal on his “dream move” to Werder Bremen on Tuesday and was instantly handed the number 9 jersey for the club's U-23 side.
The 19-year-old's hopes of a move to full-time football looked to have stalled for the time being when another German side, SpVgg Greuther Furth, failed to follow up their initial interest with Cliftonville and, one week after bidding farewell to the club's supporters, Boyce was back in the Reds' team which defeated Crusaders 3-1 at Seaview.
His goal in that match would prove a more fitting send-off and, just a few days later, the former Immaculata and Newhill ace was jetting back across the continent for a medical at the 42,000-capacity Weserstadion.
Although signed for Werder's U-23 team initially, Boyce will train with the club's first team — and will no doubt look to teach fellow strikers Hugo Almeida and Claudio Pizzaro a thing or two.
“I've always wanted to play for a big European club and this is a real dream move,” he said.
“I had a lot of good times with Cliftonville and playing in the European games this summer was a great experience but playing full-time football is something everyone wants to do.”
Reds boss Eddie Patterson was disappointed to lose his young starlet but could not hide his delight at seeing Boyce being handed such a golden opportunity.
“I have said for a long time that any club which signs Liam would not be taking a gamble,” he said.
“He's a superb player, a good worker and a keen listener.
“He always wants to learn and to improve and, much as I'm sure the collapse of the move to Greuther must have frustrated him, it's actually proven to be a blessing in disguise because he's ended up moving to a much bigger club.
“His absence will hurt us, no doubt about that, but we couldn't stand in the lad's way and, believe me, everyone at Cliftonville is chuffed for him.”
Werder — who boast German World Cup stars Tim Wiese, Tim Borowski, Marko Marin and Per Mertesacker among their ranks — enjoyed a busy final 24 hours of the transfer window, snapping up highly-rated Brazilian midfielder Wesley from Santos and former Manchester United and Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre before concluding their deal for Belfast man Boyce.
Youth Director Uwe Harttgen explained: “I am excited to see how this move will evolve for us.
“Liam is a completely different type of player to what we have, not least because he has come from Northern Ireland.
“He has gained some good experience with Cliftonville and we believe he is ready and willing to take that further and progress to the next level with us.”