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Jack Harrison signs with Manchester City, loaned to Middlesbrough

The No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft is heading to England on a $6 million deal.

Soccer- Audi MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal Leg 2- New York CIty FC vs Columbus Crew Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

One of the brightest young stars in Major League Soccer and a recent No. 1 overall draft pick in the SuperDraft, Jack Harrison is already departing the league and heading home to England after New York City FC and Premier League side Manchester City agreed on a transfer worth nearly $6 million (£4 million) for the 21-year-old winger, and then loaned him to Middlesbrough for the remainder of the season.

Harrison is actually making a return back to his childhood stomping grounds, having been born in Stoke-on-Trent before moving to Bolton as a child. But at 14 years old his family moved to the United States, starting the young attacker on a path that ended with him being one of the top young players in the country. That led to him becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, initially taken by the Chicago Fire before being traded to New York City FC later in the day.

NYCFC had spent years trying to sign Harrison, and once an injured hip healed and he worked his way back into the lineup, he almost instantly became a locked-on starter for New York. He scored four goals in his rookie season and played so well overall that he was a finalist for the MLS Rookie of the Year voting that Jordan Morris ultimately won, and in 2017 he started all but one of NYCFC’s matches, scoring 10 times for one of the best attacks in MLS. Those performances over the last two years have led him to be called into the England U-21 national team, where he’s made two appearances and got back on the radar for Premier League teams.

That led to interest from Stoke City during this transfer window, but they turned their attention elsewhere after negotiations stalled last week. That opened the door for Manchester City — who are owned by the same financial group that own New York City FC — to make an offer for Harrison based on Stoke’s negotiations. Because they let Stoke set the price, City are unlikely to be suspected of manipulating financial fair play. That necessitated finding him a place to play the rest of the current season, though, and that brings us to his loan to Championship side Middlesbrough.

While he’s best used as a right winger, Harrison has occasionally been deployed on the left wing and even as an attacking midfielder at the tip of a midfield diamond. At Middlesbrough, he’ll likely be used all across the attacking midfield band, as they’ve struggled to get results in that area of the pitch this season. Adama Traore has struggled for form and fitness on the right, and while Stewart Downing has fared decently there, his lack of pace seriously hampers them at times. Harrison’s speed and prodigious work rate will be a big asset to a Middlesbrough team still very much in the promotion playoff race, even though they currently find themselves four points outside the last playoff qualifying spot.

This move is a big step forward in Harrison’s career, and while NYCFC fans will be disappointed that he’s not staying long-term, they’ll still be happy to watch him find success in England. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, just as long as he can seize the opportunity at hand.