“Ronaldo, for me, set the ultimate example. His car was always the first in the car park in the morning and the last to leave."
Not many teenagers can offer that insight in professional football but Scotland's Jack Harper is one man who can. The 22-year-old reflected on his time at Real Madrid, where he mixed with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, that thrust his career into the limelight from a young age.
Harper was born in Malaga, but takes pride in his nationality as a Scot and is born from parents native to Barrhead just outside of Glasgow.
His footballing education in Iberia eventually saw him move to Real Madrid in 2013, where he climbed the ranks under the watchful eye of Zinedine Zidane who was developing as a coach.
The Scot recalled: “Zinedine Zidane was a quiet, shy person – but he spoke with his feet.
Training under Zidane and working out with Ronaldo
“I worked with them a few times. His touch was incredible and I’m sure he could still play at a high level."
He officially graduated to the Real Madrid under-18 side in 2013, and then to the under-19 outfit a year later as he made his way through the Scottish youth teams simultaneously.
Nevertheless, his reputation often worked against him and former Scotland under-21 manager Ricky Sbragia infamously branded him a 'luxury' player in 2015. The coach later apologised but Harper has received no contact from the SFA since the incident.
So, what has actually happened to Harper in recent years?
Return to Britain with Brighton
Well, 2015 also marked the end of his endeavours at Real Madrid despite being seriously tipped to make a La Liga breakthrough at the club. He made a return to British shores with Brighton & Hove Albion that summer.
He made 25 appearances and scored four goals in Premier League 2 yet his spell was unravelled by injuries and he eventually returned to Spanish shores in January 2017.
Boss Chris Houghton would later concede that his Real Madrid background worked against him, stating: “Of course, there was a lot of hype around his move here, because of where he’d come from and probably that didn’t help him.”
Working up the ranks at Malaga
However, there is cause for optimism around Harper's career back in the city of his birth.
He hit the ground running in the youth teams with five goals and two assists in his first games, and was on the scoresheet for the reserves as recently as last month. Furthermore, he makes for fantastic watching on the number of YouTube compilations that bear his name.
And he remains optimistic of a return to the Scottish side.
“My ultimate ambition is to play for Scotland in a World Cup. That’s never changed. It’s THE dream," he stated and what a career arc that would be.
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