Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: REUTERS
Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: REUTERS

South African youngster Sphephelo Sithole has followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo by making his bow for the Under-19 side of Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon.

Sithole came off the bench for Sporting in the 2-0 Uefa Youth League home win over Italian side Juventus on Tuesday‚ after having been an unused substitute against Barcelona.

The competition is essentially a Champions League for teams in the Under-19 age group and features some of the best players in the world at this level.

It is a major step forward for the highly rated 18-year-old midfielder‚ who joined Sporting from the KwaZulu-Natal Academy in July.

Tall and powerful‚ Sithole is in a similar mould to Bongani Zungu‚ whose game was also well-suited to Portugal before he left Vitória Guimarães for Amiens in France’s Ligue 1 at the start of this campaign.

The Sporting Under-19 side are second in their Uefa Youth League Group D behind unbeaten Barca‚ with Greek side Olympiakos the other team in the pool.

The league features the best Under-19 sides in Europe and if his side qualify for the knockout stages‚ teams that Sithole could come up against include Real Madrid‚ Manchester United‚ Bayern Munich‚ Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Sithole was part of the SA squad that competed at the 2015 Fifa Under-17 World Cup and is among a number of Academy players looking to make it in Portugal.

TimesLIVE

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