The curious case of Zeki Fryers

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A little over a year ago, Ezekiel 'Zeki' Fryers was beginning to make a name for himself at Manchester United.

As a promising academy prospect, the 20-year-old defender made his professional debut away to Leeds United in a tricky and hostile League Cup tie. Fryers performed admirably, putting in a flawless display as United eased their way to victory.

As the season progressed, the England youth international made his league, FA Cup and Champions League debuts with the majority of his appearances coming at left-back, with United officials seeing the Manchester-born defender as the natural long-term successor to Patrice Evra.

Fryers' rise to prominence saw him linked with a move to Tottenham in the summer transfer window, and with his contract set to expire in July 2012, United officials tried to negotiate a new and improved deal with the young prodigy.

Reports started to circulate that Fryers was considering his future at Old Trafford, and he stunned the Reds by refusing a new contract, just when it appeared he was on the brink of even more senior action.

Fryers trained with Spurs in pre-season and looked all set to sign on at White Hart Lane, with Andre Villas-Boas' side due to pay up to £6million to United in compensation. But no agreement was made and the move fell through. In a bizarre turn of events, Standard Liege stepped in and took him to Belgium.

In an interview with the Manchester Evening News, Fryers stated that he rejected a three-year-contract with United, instead opting to join Liege in search of regular first-team football.

"United offered a three-year contract but I rejected the offer," said Zeki.

"Spurs were interested but the fee was too much. Then Standard Liege arrived with a good opportunity for me to play regular games and get experience.

"I thought it was the right time for me to leave and get experience playing in a good league.

"You never know what will happen in football, but I made the right decision for me.

"For me, every game is more experience. It is a new challenge for me but I think I'm doing well. The Belgian League is different, but there is a lot of quality. It has developed some great players that are now in the Premier League.

"It is important to play different styles of football, but it is also a big challenge as you need to adapt to living in another country and the way they play."

Fryers hinted during his interview that it wouldn't be too long before he was on the move again, citing that his switch to Liege was very much a temporary thing, and you can never predict what the future holds.

He added: "My first goal is to grow as a player, not to get international recognition directly. In football, everything changes very quickly.

"Today I'm at Standard in the first year of my contract (having signed a two-year deal) and I want it to be as good as possible. Maybe after that I can go one step higher."

Fast forward five months to the present day, and Tottenham have finally got their man, confirming via their official website that a deal had been agreed with Standard Liege to bring the England U19 international to north London.

A club statement read: "We are delighted to announce that we have reached agreement with Standard Liege for the signing of Zeki Fryers.

The young defender, capped by England at Under-16, 17 and 19 level, began his career at Manchester United before joining Standard Liege last summer.

Zeki will link up with the Club's Development Squad."

The move seems a little strange, with Fryers joining Spurs behind Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Naughton and Jan Vertonghen in the pecking order, and given that he left United to play first-team football, the whole transfer raises one or two eyebrows.

That aside, what can Tottenham fans expect from their new arrival?

Zeki has the potential to be a top Premier League and international player. He’s a strong, athletic defender with electric pace. Comfortable on the ball, he loves to step out of defence and switch the play with raking cross-field passes. Combined with the ability to play in the centre of defence as well as at left-back, Fryers is has the potential to forge a long and successful career in the game.

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Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League
Manchester United

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