Still only 17, NK Inter Zaprešić goalkeeper Matej Delač is already a big star in his native Croatia and is in line to be come a well-known player across Europe, having signed a pre-contract agreement with Chelsea FC.
Having made his senior debut as a 15-year-old, he became the Croatian top tier's youngest ever player on 22 February 2009, when aged just 16. Just ten days after his 17th birthday he received his first senior international call-up, and is now gearing up to move to Stamford Bridge after he turns 18 on 20 August. The 190cm-tall custodian spoke to UEFA.com about his career so far and the bright future that seemingly awaits him.
UEFA.com: Was signing the pre-contract agreement with Chelsea a dream come true?
Matej Delač: Of course. It's every player's dream to sign for such a big club and to play in the strongest league in the world, and I will be achieving that already at my age. I cannot sign as a professional yet, so I signed a pre-contract and I will sign a five-year deal when I turn 18. I still don't know what they will do with me, but whatever they decide I will be happy. I am their player, they are a huge club and they will know what to do.
UEFA.com: How are they preparing you for the move to England?
Delač: They have been sending me DVDs to watch. They want me to learn more and they are really taking care of me. They often send someone from the club to watch me in Croatian league matches. They ask to have tapes of my games sent to London. They are very interested in my performances in Croatia.
UEFA.com: You spent two weeks training with Chelsea in December. How was that?
Delač: It was really like a dream. You watch those players on TV and the next thing you know you are with them on the pitch. It's a really huge thing to practice with such big stars. I was mostly talking with the goalkeepers. Petr Čech complimented me on a few occasions. It was huge stuff for me. I tried to learn from him and I was copying his moves. Now I am following his regime and I hope I will be as good as him one day.
UEFA.com: Who are your goalkeeping idols?
Delač: My idols were always Petr Čech and Pepe Reina. I will try to be like them, but I am only at the start of my career. There's no hurry; I still have plenty of time to learn.
UEFA.com: Will it be tough to leave your family behind at such a young age?
Delač: It's not a big deal for me. I am ready to go. I will be professional and do whatever Chelsea ask of me. I will be looked after well in London. My family came there with me and they were shown that I would be in safe hands.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to be a star in Croatia?
Delač: A lot of people recognise me on the street. They congratulate me after a good match or sometimes tell me to keep doing a good job. On Facebook, I keep getting more and more friends. Once when I had a good match I woke up in the morning and saw that a few hundred people wanted to befriend me.
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