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    Middlesbrough fend off Premier League interest in academy talent Pharrell Willis

    Exclusive – Middlesbrough have agreed a long-term contract with academy prospect Pharrell Willis after successfully fending off interest in the academy prospect from several Premier League clubs.

    Willis has been instrumental in Boro finishing fourth in this season’s Under-18 Premier League behind only academy powerhouses Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool.

    The Teesside club landed the teenager in 2019 after scouts spotted him playing non-league football at the age of 16. He is primarily an attacking midfielder but has also played wide and up front for Boro’s junior team this season and scored eight times in the league.

    90min understands that Chelsea, West Ham and Leeds have all taken an interest in 18-year-old Willis, who was born in 2003. He was born in London but is more than happy to stay with Boro in the north east and commit his future to the club.

    Club sources have revealed that terms on a long-term deal have now been agreed, with Boro staff hoping that Willis will be pushing for a place in the first-team sooner rather than later.

    Middlesbrough hope Willis will soon compete for a first-team place
    Middlesbrough hope Willis will soon compete for a first-team place | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Middlesbrough have long had a reputation for developing players. The club won the FA Youth Cup in 2004, having also played in the final the previous year and academy graduates over the years have included players like Stewart Downing, David Wheater, Lee Cattermole and Ben Gibson.

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    Boro finished 10th in the Championship this season, which was an improvement on 2019/20 when they were 17th, but still 13 points adrift of the playoffs. The 2016/17 season remains their only top flight campaign since 2009 relegation ended a run of 11 consecutive Premier League seasons.

    For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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