SA teen Nikola Tavares joins Crystal Palace


South African-born defender Nikola Tavares has signed a professional contract with English Premier League side Crystal Palace, the club confirmed this week.

Teenager Tavares, who hails from Cape Town and played at the Hellenic academy for 18 months, is expected to have a big future with the London club having starred on trial with their Under-23 side.

The 18-year-old, who is also a junior international with Croatia, was previously at the academies of English Championship clubs Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion, and also tried out at Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

His South African-Portuguese father and Croatian mother decided to move to England four years ago to further his footballing career after he showed much promise and his younger brother Marco, a goalkeeper, is also an exciting prospect.

“He is a very intelligent kid who has done exceptionally well and benefitted tremendously from the decision of his father, as an EU passport holder, to move to England and get him into quality youth development structures.”

“We are very excited for him and I firmly believe he can go on to play for Crystal Palace in the Premier League or the Championship, wherever they end up.”

Palace are currently second-bottom in the Premier League but are hopeful that manager Sam Allardyce can devise a great escape before the end of the season.

Tavares is still eligible to play for Bafana Bafana despite having donned the colours of another national association already albeit at junior level.