Patrick Roberts intends to be playing Premier League football next season, but what does the future hold for a man who has impressed with Celtic and remains tied to English champions Manchester City?
Does the ability of a 21-year-old winger match his ambition and is he ready to unlock his undoubted potential in the English top-flight after a handful of previous outings at that level?
The answer to those questions is likely to be provided in 2018-19, with all concerned of the opinion that now is the right time for a player who burst onto the scene in 2014 to prove that he can hold his own among elite company.
It remains to be seen where that next step will be taken, with it possible that Roberts’ promise could move in one of several directions this summer as he approaches an important career crossroads.
Who is Patrick Roberts?
Having been lured across London from AFC Wimbledon to Fulham as a 13-year-old, Roberts penned a first professional contract with the Cottagers shortly after his 17th birthday.
With those terms signed in February 2014, a month later he was making his Premier League debut.
Then Fulham boss Felix Magath described the youngster as “an extraordinary talent” as he handed him a senior bow off the bench in a meeting with Manchester City.
Roberts’ first taste of life in the big time was to end with relegation, but it was clear to those inside and outside of Craven Cottage that an exciting prospect had been unearthed.
Who has Patrick Roberts played for?
Having made his debut in March 2014, Roberts would take in just one more Premier League outing that season, with Fulham allowing him to return to the club’s academy system which saw an impressive class of talent reach the FA Youth Cup final – losing 7-6 on aggregate to Chelsea.
Roberts was back in the senior fold for 2014-15, fresh from helping England to European Under-17 Championship glory, and would take in 20 appearances across all competitions as the Cottagers reacquainted themselves with the Championship.
Although he was mainly used off the bench, Manchester City – against whom he had made his Premier League bow – saw enough in the teenager to invest £12 million in his potential.
After gracing the 2015 International Champions Cup, Roberts was introduced to competitive action for City in a League Cup clash with Sunderland, before seeing four minutes of Premier League football after replacing Sergio Aguero in a meeting with Tottenham.
Facing fierce competition for places at the Etihad Stadium, Roberts was allowed to link up with Celtic on an initial 18-month loan in January 2016.
A first senior goal arrived in April of that year, as a bright start was made to life in Glasgow, with two further efforts that month seeing him named Scottish Player of the Month.
The following year saw Roberts take his game to even greater heights, with another league title secured in a campaign which delivered 15 goals – including a stunning solo effort in a Man of the Match performance against parent club City in the Champions League group stage.
He was back at Parkhead for 2017-18, despite Pep Guardiola’s desire to see him gain more experience outside of Britain and England’s wish to include him in their U-20 World Cup squad, but a series of niggling knocks prevented him from replicating his heroics from previous campaigns.
What does the future hold for Patrick Roberts?
Roberts sees himself in the Premier League next season, telling Sky Sports: “I’ve enjoyed my football [with Celtic] and everyone knows that. But you also have to look at the bigger picture and I have certain ambitions in my head and places that I want to be.
“Being an English player and having come through the system in the Premier League [the ambition] is to play for a top club in the Premier League.
“I’m at one now with Manchester City and they’re doing well but you’ve got to look at yourself, and what’s best for you, and try to pick the best option possible.”
With City’s squad loaded with creative midfield talent, it is likely that Roberts’ future lies outside of the Etihad Stadium.
There has been no indication that he will be absorbed back into the Blues fold by Guardiola, so a permanent switch elsewhere could be on the cards – a year on from Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers claiming that £30 million would not have been enough for the Hoops to do a deal.
City were apparently prepared to use him as a makeweight in their efforts to land Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez during the January transfer window, so the Foxes may be one possible landing spot.
Southampton have also been credited with holding an interest – and have a history of acquiring former Celtic players – while a return to Fulham could even be on the cards if the Cottagers are able to emerge victorious in the Championship play-off final and restore Premier League status.
He won’t, though, be heading back to Parkhead for another season. Rodgers said of the 21-year-old on May 15: “We are going to lose young Pat, who will go back to Man City.
!He’s had a fantastic two-and-a-half years and he’s been unfortunate this season with injury and whatnot. We will lose some players naturally but we have to keep improving the squad.”
Whatever happens, Roberts is not going to be short of offers this summer, with the Liverpool fan set to be lining up against his boyhood idols from Anfield at some point in the very near future.