NOTTINGHAM FOREST’S new £15million signing Anthony Elanga was 11 when he thought he had sealed his dream move from Elfsborg to Swedish giants Malmo.
But the transfer ended in tears a couple of months later when the winger’s stint at Sweden’s biggest club abruptly ended.Anthony Elanga was reduced to tears after he was denied a move to Malmo due to his family relocating to England[/caption]
Incredibly, one of Scandinavia’s most gifted football talents was suddenly playing on pockmarked council pitches in Greater Manchester — for Hyde Sunday League grassroots team Hattersley.
Now, a decade later, Elanga is much happier with his latest transfer and cannot wait for the white-hot heat of a frenzied City Ground on his side for a change.
Forest boss Steve Cooper snapped up the brilliant 21-year-old from Manchester United with orders to become a risk-taker and chance-maker at the sharp end of the park, starting against Arsenal at The Emirates.
Fortunately, risk-taking appears to be part of the Elanga family DNA, as his mother Daniella demonstrated when she made a career-defining decision in 2013.
Elanga said: “I’ve never actually told anyone how I became the Swede with the English accent!
“I’d just been signed by Malmo and was looking forward to being developed within their academy. But after six weeks, Mum told us we were moving to England because she felt there were better opportunities for us there.
“It certainly wasn’t a football-related decision, Mum just felt it was a better move for me and my two sisters.
“But having just joined Malmo, it was difficult to come to terms with at first.”
Elanga always seemed destined to star for Malmo and follow the pathway carved out by his famous father, Cameroon 1998 World Cup star Joseph Elanga, who enjoyed two spells in the heart of Malmo’s defence.
But with coaches tipping him for stardom, Anthony’s ambitions were put on hold as his parents decided to move their young family to England.
“I won’t lie, there were tears,” said the softly-spoken youngster whose mastery of FIVE languages — French, Swedish, English, Spanish and Portuguese — rivals his mastery of the ball.
“Before we moved we went back to my old club Elfsborg for a presentation night and my mum bought pizzas for everyone.
“It was very emotional and when it was my turn to get my presentation I cried.
“When I wiped my tears away and looked up there was a club shirt which they had all signed and presented to me. It was quite a sad time but at the end of the day you have got to take risks, haven’t you?
“I felt as though I could have stayed in Sweden. But when your mum says you have got to go, you have got to go!
“And she was proved right in the end.”
However, Elanga experienced an early culture shock after swapping Malmo for Manchester.
He said: “From being in the Malmo system, I suddenly had no clue where I would end up.
“I started off locally with Hattersley FC, who are a good Sunday League grassroots team from Hyde.
“I actually played with Campbell Hatton, who is a boxer now, and the son of the former world champion boxer Ricky Hatton.
“But I always wanted to become a professional footballer and reach the top.
“I knew at the back of my mind that there would be a lot of opportunities in England — even playing grassroots Sunday league football.
“A lot of scouts came to watch and they offered me six-week trial periods which gave me the motivation to kick on from there.
“Thankfully, I started with Manchester United after being spotted by their scouts, which is not a bad place to start again really!”
The winger worked his way through United’s youth teams and made more than 50 appearances for the club after earning his first-team debut against Leicester two years ago.
But his career stalled last season under new boss Erik ten Hag and he only featured in 26 of United’s 62 games.
This time Elanga did not fear moving — and now says he cannot wait to feel the atmosphere of the City Ground when they play their first Prem home game on Friday against Sheffield United.
Elanga added: “Old Trafford holds 75,000 but even they said you can feel the intimidating atmosphere from the Forest fans.
“Mull of Kintyre . . . when you step out and hear that sung by the whole ground, it’s intimidating.”