Leverkusen signs Belgian teen Noah Mbamba from Club Brugge

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Bayer Leverkusen beat off reported English Premier League interest to sign highly rated Belgian teenager Noah Mbamba from Club Brugge on Saturday.

The 18-year-old Mbamba, a defensive midfielder who plays for Belgium Under-19s, signed through June 2028.

Mbamba’s contract with Brugge was up at the end of the season. He made 14 appearances in the Belgian league and three in the Champions League last season but didn’t play for the senior team this season after it became clear in the summer that he didn’t want to extend his contract.

Four Premier League clubs including Chelsea and Crystal Palace were reportedly interested in signing Mbamba. But it appeared Leverkusen’s success in nurturing young talent played a role in his decision.

“I like German club football and Bayer 04 is known for offering young players the best opportunities to reach the highest levels,” Mbamba said in a statement by the German club.

Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes said, “Mbamba . . . has excellent technique, and is tall and fast. If he keeps developing at this level, he will be able to play an important role in our team with his class in the future.”

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The Associated Press