Friday May the 13th will always be remembered by the City Group’s January signing — Zalán Vancsa. The date is often associated with connotations of bad luck, but this one only reaped good fortune for the 17-year-old.

On midday, Hungary’s national team manager, Marco Rossi, announced his squad for the country’s Nations League encounters with England, Italy and Germany in June, and Vancsa’s name made the list.

Across the capital, Vancsa was sitting on a tram on his way home from training, trying to fathom the prospect of becoming Hungary’s youngest player since 1918.

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“I was sitting on the tram on the way home from training when the news broke,” Vancsa tells MEN Sport. I was expecting to play for the U21s. I didn’t expect this. It came as a bit of a surprise.”

Previously, Vancsa had featured for Hungary’s U19 side, but it was his role for MTK Budapest on loan from the City Group’s Lommel SK, that caught Marco Rossi’s eye with the youngster establishing himself as a regular towards the end of the season for the Budapest based side.

Earlier this season, Vancsa made headlines becoming the youngest player to score in Hungary’s top flight in the last 100 years and the sixth youngest in Hungary’s top tier overall, aged 16 years and nine months, just one month older than Hungary’s legendary, Ferenc Puskás.

His impressive form playing in Hungary’s top flight, coupled with a spectacular UEFA Youth League campaign, led Manchester City’s owners to pounce on his services in January and sign him up to the City Group.

Vancsa is contracted to the City Group’s Lommel SK, where he will play next season, but during January he signed his contract on Manchester City’s Etihad Campus where he was given an extensive tour and greeted by staff and players alike and will be closely monitored by the club in the coming years.

City beat the likes of AC Milan, Ajax, Sevilla, Bayern Munich and other Premier League rivals to Vancsa’s signature, and Vancsa is convinced he made the right move.

“I chose City because of what they presented to me and my family over Zoom meetings. They had a plan for helping my career gradually. I also really felt like they wanted me the most out of any of the other clubs. These two things were the most important for me.

“The path provided by the City Group was very inspiring. I really like the fact that you can build your career step by step here, and you don’t have to jump straight into the deep end. They take care of your career and they have a clear vision for your future. Ultimately, they will give you all the tools you need to give you the best chance for a successful career.”

At City, Vancsa is expected to follow a well-trodden route. The City Group model has not only benefitted Manchester City financially with significant sales such as Angeliño, Douglas Luiz, Pedro Porro and Ivan Ilić but the loan path has also helped pave the career of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Zack Steffen within Manchester City’s first team squad.

“These names are very motivating for me,” Vancsa says. “Because I can see what the club told me is not just empty words. These players are tangible proof that if a player works hard, you can really build a career here, and it’s possible to progress through the ranks.”

In January, Vancsa got a taster on his visit around the Etihad Campus of just what playing for Manchester City would feel like, and he is determined to continue working towards the dream, but he understands he will need to take his career step by step.

“It was incredible to be there and unbelievable to see what the work looks like from within and behind the cameras. Everyone was so professional, not just the players but the staff working in the offices. You could tell that this was the pinnacle of football.

“Everything depends on how I develop. There is a plan for me about where I can get to in the future if I can progress at the same rate as I am now. If there is a step in my career where I can play for Man City, I’ll be happier than anyone. But first I need to put in the work.”

The City Group only acquired Vancsa’s next destination, Lommel SK, in May 2020, and have just recently finished building state-of-the-art training facilities for the club based in Belgium’s second division. The ambition for next season will be to gain promotion and emulate the success of Brighton owned, Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, who came a whisker away from securing the league title this season following their promotion in 2020/21.

Vancsa, who could be one of the club’s linchpins in their ambitious quest, is relishing the challenge.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge for me not just in terms of football. But personally, it will be the first time living away from home for me, which will be a learning curve. On the pitch, I will need to pick up the rhythm and if I can do that, I’m sure I will be able to progress.

“I want to play as much as possible, and I want to integrate myself into the team not just on the pitch but off it too to be part of the dressing room. I also want to improve a lot, and develop even more than I did at MTK.”

To prepare, Vancsa has kept a close eye on Lommel’s progress this season and he sees parallels in their style with that of Pep Guardiola’s at Manchester City.

“I really like this style of play [Guardiola’s tiki-taka]. I prefer it over counter-attacking football. I can see that it’s not just Man City who plays like that, but everyone within the City Group. I’ve been watching Lommel’s game and you can tell Guardiola’s influence there. They try to copy his style. It makes it easier for players to progress within the City Group.”

This level of integration does not just merely exist on the field between the two clubs, but off it, too.

“Most of the coaches there [Lommel] have been at Manchester City before working in Belgium. I think they keep in touch daily, so there is a lot of communication between the two teams.”

Watching Manchester City’s games regularly has also been a learning curve for Vancsa in his preparation for his next challenge.

“I learn from everyone watching City’s games. I watch Sterling a lot, on and off the ball. His change of pace and his speed is an inspiration. But I also like Mahrez, his dribbling and his ability to take players on as well as his unbelievable technique is something I admire and something I try to learn from. They’re the two I feel like can teach me the most.”

What the future holds and whether a move to Manchester City is on the cards remains to be seen in the next few years, but Vancsa is determined to make the most of it.

“For me, the most important thing is that I will be satisfied about what I have achieved and where I have gotten in that time. If I can be satisfied with the work that I have done, and the direction I am heading in, then I will be extremely content.”

For now, though, Vancsa is fully focused on the month ahead. The domestic season may have concluded in Hungary, but Vancsa’s unexpected call-up to the senior national team means he will now be in action until the 14th of June before he can start preparing for his move to Belgium.

The 17-year-old is part of Marco Rossi’s training camp in a hybrid role that will see him play for Hungary’s U21 side against Germany on June 3rd before returning to the senior squad and being involved in the fixtures against Italy, Germany and England later on in the month.

It’s the prospect of playing against the latter that entices Vancsa the most knowing it will be an opportunity to play in a Premier League ground at Wolverhampton’s Molineux Stadium and catch the eye in front of Manchester City supporters watching in the stands and on television.

“Back when I was at City in January, I didn’t think that I would have the chance to come back to England, let alone to play in a Premier League stadium just a few months later. I’m hoping I get a chance to play, and I’m trying to prove myself in training, but I’m also just enjoying every moment—it’s an honour to have been selected.”

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