Signing of "superstar" Anass Zaroury would have been unobtainable if Burnley had delayed their pursuit — says boss Vincent Kompany
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The 36-year-old, nominated for yet another Sky Bet Championship Manager of the Month gong, believes the capture of the ex-Charleroi ace would've been far more challenging had he been any further down the line in his development.
He's now played 22 times for the club, his opener against Norwich City at Carrow Road took him into double figures across the board this term, and he played a part in his nation's incredible World Cup journey, featured in the third-place play-off against Croatia in Qatar.
"He's at a wonderful age; you know that if they get it right, especially from a psychological side, players of that age are ready for men's football," said Kompany.
"If you take it two or three years earlier they might not be ready for that level, but they're ready and with every minute they play if they're able to concentrate on their development you can see that type of exponential growth. It's a really good age to work with."
The ex-Manchester City skipper added: "He's got all the tools, it's no different to guys like Lyle Foster or [Michael] Obafemi, if they were any further in their game they wouldn't be achievable to us, they wouldn't be affordable.
"And behind their tools is a good person, a coachable, young individual and with the information you have you back them, you support them.
"I wouldn't like to compare him to anyone yet, there are still a lot of levels between us and the top, so he just has to stay on his path and, then, who knows?"
Kompany is keen to protect his "superstar" from the flashing lights and distracting heights of stardom, as the 22-year-old's social media channels continue to blow up in terms of followers.
Gawthorpe provides Zaroury with a "bubble" to get his head down and continue his education and development in the game, alongside fellow level-headed team-mates and staff.
And Kompany, a former Belgium international, who also reached a third-place play-off at a World Cup, is pleased with the manner in which the youngster continues to handle himself.
He said: "He is still a kid! He has improved a lot from where he was three or four months ago but he can still improve a lot more.
"The only reason why I said he came back a 'superstar' is because, guess what, if you come home and there are two million people on the streets of Morocco and your Instagram accounts and Twitter accounts are going hundred fold up, or a thousand fold up, then it is a little bit different, your life changes a little bit."
He added: "But in terms of with us, this has to a bubble. It doesn't matter how I described him, there is still many levels above that. The key is to understand early on that your workplace needs to be your bubble and that here is a place you choose to come and improve. He has been doing that ever so well and I think that is why he keeps getting better.
"Learning comes through making mistakes and so when the environment changes you are exposed to potential mistakes and he has been able to navigate it much better than many young players I have seen so we will monitor and make sure his habits remain the right ones."