Winger, father and AUTHOR and still just 22… Man Utd’s £84m transfer Antony is proof you can’t judge a book by its cover

HE WROTE a book, became a dad and made his debut for Brazil’s Under-23s — all at the grand old age of 19.

So Manchester United should not be too worried about whether winger Antony — their new arrival from Ajax — is mature enough to handle being the third most expensive signing in the club’s history.

Manchester United are closing in on the signing of Ajax forward Antony

Yet £84million is still a hell of a lot for a player who has made a massive name for himself but outside one of Europe’s so-called top five leagues. It is still a risk.

Set to feature in Dutch football’s biggest-ever transfer, Antony, 22, has nevertheless repeatedly taken everything in his stride, so maybe the latest chapter of his career will be no different.

After moving from South America to Ajax in 2020, with both Manchester City and Everton failing with bids, Antony took his game to a new level and now follows manager Erik ten Hag and defender Lisandro Martinez from Amsterdam to Manchester.

For Ajax, this is yet more brilliant business. Their sales have rocketed to £193m this summer — including Martinez’s £48.3m switch to United — while their expenditure has been £91m.

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Antony has proved to be a hit in Holland even though club legend Marco van Basten slammed his record move from Sao Paulo, which was worth £13m but could end up nearer £18m.

Van Basten, who has now probably changed his tune, said: “At Ajax, they have a very big mouth.

“Our youth education is so great. And then you are going to buy a youth player for a mega amount. Something is wrong then.

“If you hit yourself so terribly in the chest that the youth education is so great, then of course it is ridiculous that you are going to buy a youth player from Brazil for 25 million euros.”

Born Antony Matheus Dos Santos, he joined the academy of local club Sao Paulo, aged ten.

He helped them win the J League World Challenge in Japan and was named best player, leading to his first professional contract, aged 18, in 2018.

Just 12 months later Antony became a father to son Lorenzo and made his debut for Brazil U-23s, playing alongside Bruno Guimaraes, now at Newcastle.

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Antony then penned From Overcoming A Real Dream, a diary about the pressures of being a rising star in Brazil.

He detailed his issues in the Sao Paulo youth set-up and revealed he was close to being released three times.

Following his debut for Sao Paulo, Tottenham’s Lucas Moura congratulated the youngster and told him to “work hard” and keep playing matches.

Antony has since developed a close friendship with Moura.

He is just 5ft 9in tall, plays on the right side of midfield or attack and is renowned for cutting in on his left foot.

Despite interest from the Premier League, Antony moved to Ajax in 2020, earning about £12,000-a-week.

On arrival, his new Brazilian team-mates released a rap in his honour.

David Neres and Danilo recorded a track called Bem-vindo Antony  (Welcome Antony), written by Sarita Lorena, a Brazilian who had been living in Holland for many years.

Antony, a devout Catholic with a love of jet-skiing, became a revelation at the Johan Cruyff Arena, winning two Eredivisie titles under Ten Hag.

He continued his fine form at the start of the season, scoring once and adding two assists in the first two Eredivisie games before he was left out for the clash with Sparta Rotterdam.

Although still a newcomer on the international stage, Antony will hope to star at the World Cup in Qatar.

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He made his senior Brazilian debut against Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier ten months ago and has now appeared nine times.

But over the past few months, Antony has fallen out with Ajax.

He said: “In February of this year, my agents came to Amsterdam to inform Ajax of my desire to leave the club.

“In June, I interrupted my vacation and came personally to inform the managers of Ajax, including the new coach, about my wish to leave and that they should consider this possibility.”

And on Friday, he said: “In a meeting with the club, I expressed my old interest in leaving, only this time with a considerable offer on the table.

“Ajax refused, with an argument that they only have five days to replace me.”

Like most things in his short career, though, Antony is getting exactly what he wants.

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