England Youth International arrives at Griffin Park
Brentford have signed England youth international Rico Henry from Walsall for an initial £1.5m fee, the highest the Club have paid for a teenager. The speedy left-sided player, who turned 19 last month, completed the deal today, Wednesday 31 August, and signed a five-year contract. The teenager, who plays predominantly at left back, will link up again with Brentford Head Coach Dean Smith, who handed Rico a professional debut when he was Walsall manager.
He joined Walsall at the age of 11 and turned professional days after his 17th birthday. Rico played his first professional game five months later and had played nine Sky Bet League One games before he was 18. He established himself as Walsall’s first choice left back last season and helped them finish third in League One. He was named Football League Young Player of the Month in September 2015 and earned a spot in the PFA League One Team of the Year for his performances last term.
Rico was named in the top three for the Football League Young Player of the Year Award last season. The prize was won by Lewis Cook, now in the Premier League with AFC Bournemouth. He also earned himself a first international call-up, winning two England Under-19 caps. He made 58 appearances for The Saddlers, scoring three goals. Rico currently has a shoulder injury that may require surgery and so will not be available for selection at present.
Head Coach, Dean Smith, said: “Rico is a player I worked with at Walsall and threw him into the first team at 16 in pre-season friendlies and he more than held his own in those games, he had no fear, and was playing in League One shortly afterwards. He’s a talented player, fearless, and likes to bring the ball to opponents.
“He will provide competition down the left side along with Callum Elder and Tom Field. I’m surprised and delighted we’ve got Rico to the football club as I thought a Premier League side would have signed him by now. His development hasn’t stopped and there’s a lot more to come from him.”
Co-Director of Football, Phil Giles, said: “The scouting team have known about Rico for some time, and to echo Dean's comments, there was a time where we felt we wouldn't be able to bring him to the Club. However, we have monitored his situation over the summer and I am delighted that there was an opportunity to sign him, and that he was keen to sign for Brentford.
"It is important that Rico has signed a five-year contract. We want to build a side that is capable of challenging towards the top of the division this season. However, it is also our responsibility to ensure that we plan for the long term and build a team that can be competitive over several seasons too. Rico will continue his development with us and be a part of that future.
"We are fully aware of the extent of the shoulder injury and have taken expert advice on it. Our medical team will continue to liaise with the consultant to determine the best treatment option. The main priority is that Rico recovers well and is 100 per cent fit in the long term. We are very comfortable with the fact that Rico may not play for Brentford in the foreseeable future as Tom Field and Callum Elder will continue to compete for the left back position.”