A star in the Netherlands, a young prospect with Scotland and he’s signed a new long-term deal with English Premier League champions Manchester City – here’s your gentle reminder Lewis Fiorini is only 19.
You may not realise it with the way he carries and conducts himself, the way the midfielder speaks about football. But Fiorini’s early professionalism is matched with ambition to be the best and he took his first step towards that with a promising loan at Eerste Divisie side NAC Breda last season, earning him a new Manchester City deal.
He’s staying at Manchester City until 2026 off the back of 36 appearances, six goals and five assists in Holland, moving out on loan to English League One club Lincoln City for the 2021/22 term. Add in his first Scotland U21s call-up and it would be fair to say Fiorini’s first 10 months in senior football have been a roaring success.
Fiorini told NTOF: “It’s been an amazing year in terms of football. I couldn’t have asked for much more. I played almost every minute for NAC Breda in the second half of last season and became a crucial part of the team. The only thing missing was not getting promoted to the Eredivisie, but I couldn’t have asked for much more outside of that.
“My ambition was to go over there and play football. But I was stepping into the unknown and didn’t know what to expect. Once I got into the team, I knew if I played to my level, I would keep playing. Trust built and I had 10 good games in succession. I had everyone’s trust and by the end of May I was one of the main men.”
Despite this impressive season, he perhaps fell victim of going under the radar. Ryan Gauld, despite a brilliant campaign with Farense in Portugal’s top-flight, suffered similar as his feats went largely unnoticed for large chunks of the season. Fiorini says the notion players can go out of sight and out of mind regardless of form is true.
The Manchester City talent explained: “I am more in the English eye and the UK eye with Lincoln City. In Holland and abroad, people can notice what you’re doing, but it can go a bit unoticed too. So it’s nice to be back home and playing.
“People back home in the UK perhaps don’t look at it (a move abroad) the same way as somebody playing in the Championship or League One. It’s kind of understandable as you aren’t aware of the level or things like that. I’m not sure why that seems to happen but it does always seem that way.”
Back in the UK now with Lincoln City, Fiorini’s second loan from Manchester City will introduce him to EFL football. It’ll be a physical battle at times, but if he has aspirations of playing in Pep Guardiola’s Etihad first-team, he knows an impression needs to be made. Despite securing his future until 2026, he’s in no mood for rest.
Fiorini said: “I’ve signed the new deal with Manchester City and from there I went straight to Lincoln. I’m just settling in here now and I am enjoying it so far. By the end of my City deal I’ll be 24. It was nice to get the deal done as it shows their thoughts on me.
“It shows what intentions Manchester City have for me. So while it was nice to get that news, I have to get first-team football. I can’t rest on my laurels, I need to keep showing people what I can do. From the first day I left on loan last year, I knew this was the pathway from me.
“Some people like to stay in the academy but after this loan in League One, I can hopefully make the progression to the Championship or higher. At the same time, there’s always that chance of playing for Manchester City.
“I look at Manchester City’s first-team and there are 25 world-class players in there. Fitting into that and getting games is tough. Everyone has a different opinion of where they want to be, but for me, playing games in my teens is so valuable. By the time I get to 20 or 21, I want 100 games under my belt. That sets me up for the rest of my career.”
There’s Scotland U21s business for Fiorini to contemplate too. In the new rotation of players at that level, he is likely to be one of the more experienced players, despite only having one U21s cap. But senior experience in Holland and now with Lincoln will stand him out from the rest. Fiorini hopes senior manager Steve Clarke is watching too.
He said: “I am looking forward to the new U21s campaign. I was in and around the group last year which was another good point from last season. There were a lot of guys with experience in that group, like Lewis Ferguson and Ross McCrorie.
“You had three lads from the group at Euro 2020 (Nathan Patterson, Billy Gilmour, David Turnbull) with the senior Scotland squad which was good to see. There aren’t many in the new group involved in senior football. Hopefully Steve Clarke gives me a call! That’s the next step for me, breaking into the senior squad.
“Who knows when that will be, however. One week I was speaking about playing for the Scotland U21s and the next week I was in it. So who knows what can happen. I want to be a star.”
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