Kwadwo Baah has gone from class clown to model pro to become one of the most talked about young talents in English football.
Although the move failed to happen, City could yet come in for Baah this summer when he is a free agent, with West Ham having also registered their interest in the gifted 18-year-old.
But it could have been a different story had Baah not been released by Crystal Palace at 14, a moment he credits as a turning point in his development.
“I wouldn’t say I was a very bad kid, it was just behaviour issues, messing around in school and in training,” said Baah. “I didn’t really take many things seriously.
“When I got released by Palace, I kind of knew it was coming. I knew I had to grow up.
“I needed to change, because being silly and not taking things seriously won’t get you anywhere. You can’t have a childish mindset.
“With my ability, I can’t waste it. You’ve seen the likes of Mario Balotelli, their mindset didn’t take them far.
“You don’t want to be that person people talk about as being a great footballer, but someone whose behaviour didn’t lead them anywhere.
“So you have to mature. You can’t be messing around at certain times, like team talks and meetings.
“Coming into men’s football, you have to grow up quickly and take everything you do seriously, because it’s not a joke.
“I thought I was fast in academy football, but in men’s football they’re faster, stronger, they read the game well, so I had to adapt quickly, get my head down and work hard.
“To be chosen out of all the young players as the EFL Player of the Month is a real honour.”
Baah enjoyed a brief taste of fame in 2016 when, as a 13-year-old ballboy, he ran onto the pitch at Selhurst Park and put the ball down to stop West Ham keeper Adrian from time-wasting.
“I got teased a lot about that, but it was all jokes,” said Baah. “People say it showed I have a lot of confidence, which I think I do.”
Since joining League One Rochdale in 2019, Baah has flourished, maturing on and off the pitch and scoring some spectacular goals to underline his huge potential.
He is proof of the success of the EFL’s Academy system, which currently has around 8,300 players, of which 1,200 are apprentices aged 16 to 18.
Of those, around 45 per cent of those will go on to become professionals at their respective clubs.
Baah wants to play at the highest level, but for now is content to prove himself at Rochdale, claiming not to have taken much notice of City’s interest.
“I’m not too sure what happened there, I don’t really get involved in stuff like that,” said Baah, who is eligible to play for England, Germany and Ghana.
“Right now my focus is on playing for Rochdale, getting more appearances and scoring more goals.
“But I have my mind set on getting to the top and I’ll do anything to get there.
“My main target is to play in the Champions League, like any kid’s dream. One day that’s what I want to do.”