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Move over Ronaldo, Carrick boy Norris may be next next darling of Bernabeu


Young Mark Norris

Young Mark Norris

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo with Keith Norris

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo with Keith Norris

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo


Young Mark Norris

He has set his sights on becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo.

Linfield Academy starlet Mark Norris from Whitehead has been invited for a trial at Real Madrid's La Fabrica by under 12 coach Alvaro Benito.

The 11-year-old Manchester United fan, nicknamed 'Xavi', will be heading to Val de Vebas for one week in May after Larne man Tommy Phillips posted videos of him playing for Linfield on YouTube.

Mark has been playing football since he was five.

He began his career with Whitehead Eagles then Greenisland FC and now plays in midfield for the young Blues.

Mark first caught the eye of Real Madrid academy coaches while on summer camp in Japan in 2012 and was spotted again online recently by ex-Madrid player Raul Valbuenna.

Valbuenna then told Benito about the youngster.

Carrickfergus Grammar pupil Mark told the Belfast Telegraph he is excited about next year's trial.

"I am looking forward to playing with the team," he said.

"I am going to do some gym work before I go.

"I will be a bit nervous at the start but then I will settle into it.

"I would love to play for Real Madrid or Man United."

Proud dad Keith told the Belfast Telegraph he will be supporting his son's dream of being a professional footballer all the way.

"I love football but I genuinely don't push him," he said. "He has said from day one he wants to be a footballer and he is playing at the highest level in Northern Ireland.

"He eats right, sleeps right and trains right, he is very dedicated."

Mark's dad says he is "rarely without a football" and knows the effort needed to make it to the top.

"I don't know what level he can play at, but with hard work, focused determination and a load of luck he may have a chance to get a living from the game, albeit he is still very young," Keith said.

"With Linfield and Club NI he receives top notch coaching up to eight hours per week.

"He's good at schoolwork and well organised.

"Mark has always said he wants to be a footballer and play for Man United."

Mark's mother Yukari is from Japan and would like him to perhaps play for its international team, but Keith wants his son to play for Northern Ireland.

"There might be a row in future years," Keith joked.

A love of football runs in the family.

Keith is a committee member of the Co Antrim Milk Cup squad, commercial director at Carrick Rangers and is the owner of the Man United flag 'Big Lily' which followed United around the world in the late 1990s.

He is friendly with several former players including Raul Gonzales, Michel Salgado and Fernando Hierro as well as current Real Madrid stars Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Ronaldo.

"He will not be fazed when he goes to Madrid in May," Keith said.

"Who knows what he can do?"

Belfast Telegraph