By Michael Lewis
Jack Harrison will get an opportunity to play professional soccer in the country of his birth.
New York City FC sold the 21-year-old English to Manchester City FC and the English Premier League side then loaned him to Middlesbrough FC of the Championship for the remainder of the season. Harrison signed a 3 1/2-year deal with ManCity.
The amount of the deal was not immediately known.
Stoke City appeared to be the forward’s destination, but Middlesbrough pulled ahead in the Harrison sweepstakes over the past 24 hours.
During his two-year tenure with NYCFC, Harrison scored 14 goals in 59 appearances. NYCFC wanted the forward so badly that it traded up for Harrison prior to the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
“I’ll forever be grateful to everyone at New York City FC for having faith in me and trading up for me in the 2016 MLS Draft,” Harrison said in a statement. “NYCFC has felt like home from the moment I arrived and has given me some of the best experiences of my life.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody associated with NYCFC – I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this team and this Club. From the amazing staff and teammates who’ve challenged me to develop my game every single day to the loyal, passionate fans who’ve always supported me, the memories of my two years with NYCFC will live on with me forever.
“Representing this incredible city has been such a special time in my life and I’ll be continuing to support the team from afar, in 2018 and in the years to come.
Harrison became a vital part of City’s attack, making runs on the right side to complement the goal-scoring ability of striker David Villa in the middle.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the last two seasons and he’s developed very quickly thanks to his hard work and talent,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “Jack is incredibly passionate about the game and is always looking to improve himself.” Vieira said.
“We wish Jack all the very best as he begins the next chapter of his career. We’re all looking forward to following his progress in Europe.”
After an injury slowed down him in his rookie season (four goals in 21 matches), Harrison blossomed in 2017. He finished with 10 goals in 34 matches and made his debut with the English Under-21 national team.
“Jack is an exciting talent, who leaves New York with our warmest wishes,” NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said.
“It’s a testament to our coaching, training and scouting staff that they have helped to develop Jack into a player who has garnered interest from various clubs in Europe. It speaks to the future of our Club and soccer in the U.S. We scouted Jack from an early age and he’s now made appearances for England U-21’s”
“Of course, it’s sad to see Jack go but at the same time, we recognize this is an opportunity that he felt ready for and wanted.”
Reyna looked ahead to the 2018 season and felt NYCFC won’t lose a beat without Harrison because of several roster additions.
“Most importantly, we’re extremely confident that we’re heading into this new season with a very strong squad,” he said. “We have great improvements across the team after several exciting signings during this off season, including across our front line where we believe we have creative players and goal scorers.”