Crewe boss Dario Gradi has claimed Barclays Premier League giants Liverpool made an illegal approach for his 16-year-old striker Max Clayton.

The teenager put pen to paper on a three-year professional contract with the Railwaymen before leaving with England for the Under-17s World Cup.

Gradi told the Sunday Express: "He had the chance to go to Liverpool, which might not happen again. I didn't think it was right for him and in any case it was an illegal approach."

He continued: "I couldn't stop him leaving in the June but he could see there would be first-team opportunities here. We offered five boys, including Max, identical contracts and they all signed them without any fuss.

"I am managing to keep them away from the big clubs but it's becoming harder.

"The scouts will always latch onto our games because they know they are going to see good players."

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