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Pundit Hamann is urging our Mark to reject Real deal

By John Laverty

Linfield or Real Madrid? For most football-mad youngsters there's surely only one winner - or is there?

Dietmar Hamann has been following our story about Mark Norris, the Linfield Academy youngster who has just bagged a week-long trial with the world's biggest football club.

Norris will travel to Madrid next May after being recommended to Real's Under-12 coach Alvaro Benito.

But Hamann, a Champions League winner with Liverpool 10 years ago, has urged caution about any potential Real follow-up to the trial.

"Mark would be better off staying with Linfield for the next few years," said the former Germany international.

"He clearly has a lot of talent but he's only a young boy. I feel it would be better for him if he continued his development at a club he's familiar with."

Speaking on Talksport, 42-year-old Hamann said he wouldn't want his own child to be 'adopted' by a club such as Real Madrid at such an early age.

"It really is too young," he said.

"You'd be taking the lad away from his environment, away from all his young friends."

Mark, 11, a dyed-in-the-wool Manchester United fan just like his father Keith, has, ironically, earned the nickname 'Xavi' for his silky skills, although he's unlikely to quote the Barca legend's name during his time in Val de Vebas next year.

He 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.

Mark, who has been playing football since the age of five, began his career with Whitehead Eagles before joining Greenisland FC. He now plays in midfield for the young Blues.

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