Back in January 2015, Manchester United completed the signing of a 20-year-old nobody had heard of before.
His name was Sadiq el Fitouri and anybody who watched the ‘Class of ’92: Out of Their League’ documentary around the same time will remember the story well.
El Fitouri was training with non-league Salford City - co-owned, of course, by Class of ’92 members Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes - when he caught the eye of Phil Neville.
The former United and Everton star, who was recently appointed manager of the England Women’s team, was stunned by what he saw from the youngster.
“This minute I saw him, I thought ‘this kid can play’,” he explained on the documentary. “There’s something mystique about him - he has a bit of swagger. Sometimes you get a gut feeling on a player and I had it.”
Neville got El Fitouri a trial at Man Utd
El Fitouri had been released by Manchester City’s academy and wasn’t being used by Salford’s joint managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley, who liked the player but wanted to stick with their experienced battle-hardened defenders.
Neville subsequently rang United’s youth coach Warren Joyce and managed to set the defender up with a trial at Man Utd.
Paul Scholes also ran the rule over the right-back and agreed with his friend and former teammate.
Speaking to Gary Neville, who was bemused that a player who wasn’t being played by Salford City could end up signing for Man Utd, Scholes said: “His physique and everything, he just looks like a footballer.”
Video: Neville and Scholes spot El Fitouri
Watch the moment Neville and Scholes first saw El Fitouri by skipping to 14:06 in this video…
El Fitouri signed an 18-month deal with United
Incredibly, United’s coaches agreed with Phil Neville following the trial and signed the Libya-born defender on an 18-month loan deal.
"He had the determination and passion to play without necessarily having the chances,” Neville said after United signed El Fitouri, who told reporters: "This is honestly a dream come true for me."
Gary Neville, meanwhile, tweeted: “Incredible story on @SalfordCityFC on Sadiq El Fitouri. Well done to Phil and Scholesy for showing belief in a lad who was out of the game!”
It was such a heartwarming story - but would there be a fairytale ending?
What's happened to El Fitouri since then?
Two years after signing for United, having never made a first-team appearance for the Red Devils, El Fitouri was snapped up by League One outfit Chesterfield last January after being released by the Premier League giants.
However, he made just two appearances for the club before being released at the end of the 2016-17 campaign following Chesterfield’s relegation to League Two.
Then, in July, he returned to the country of his birth to sign for Libyan Premier League champions Al-Ahli Tripoli.
That spell didn’t last long, either.
Earlier today it was revealed by the football journalist Emanuel Roşu that El Fitouri has left Al-Ahli Tripoli after just six months in order to sign for Romanian outfit Poli Iasi.
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you that much about Poli Iasi, other than the fact they currently sit in eighth place in the Romanian top flight and have a brilliantly-named No. 7 called ‘Platini’ from Cape Verde.
So, yeah, quite the fall from grace.
But at least he will be able to tell his grandchildren - thanks to Phil Neville - that he spent two years on the books of one of the world’s biggest football clubs.
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