CARY, N.C. – For United States U-20 international Manny Perez, signing with legendary Scottish club Celtic FC before starting his professional career on loan in the USL Championship with North Carolina FC is proving a seamless, but powerful way to transition towards his dreams of playing in Europe.
Returning to his hometown club, Perez will not only be able to draw on the experience of new NCFC Head Coach Dave Sarachan, but also rekindle a relationship with assistant John Bradford that previously helped him reach new heights.
With Bradford as Youth Academy Director, Perez moved through the NCFC Youth Academy as one of its top prospects. That brought the attention of United States youth national team scouts and put him on the upward trajectory toward his ultimate goal.
“John was probably the coach that had the most influence on me when I was in the academy. So now him being here, I think it makes me more comfortable,” said Perez in a video profile for NorthCarolinaFC.com. “He is always giving me good advice and talking to me every day just trying to make me a better player every day.”
Perez has forged his own path to the professional ranks, declining a Generation adidas contract from Major League Soccer after being named ACC Freshman of the Year in 2017. After a successful sophomore year at North Carolina State, the opportunity to make the biggest move of his life arrived at one of the two biggest clubs in Scotland. Celtic is currently closing in on its 50th top-flight championship, and the history of the club was what helped Perez put pen to paper.
“Obviously being with Celtic, I think it’s a club that develops and likes to play young players,” said Perez. “I think it was just an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on.”
Before he returns to Glasgow, though, Perez is aiming to make his mark this year for club and country. On the domestic side, he’ll be looking to help North Carolina reach the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time. Internationally he’s focused on being part of Tab Ramos’ plans for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland in May after helping the U.S. U-20s claim the Concacaf U-20 Championship last November.
Success there could open even more doors, including the chance to don the famous green and white hoops of Celtic for the first time. Making a big impact for his hometown club will go a long way toward achieving those ambitions.
“I just want to be me, I want to play how I know how to play,” said Perez. “Coming back to play for my own home club, I think it’s a good opportunity for me. … I just want to develop as a player, and I think I’m in a perfect position and perfect club to do that.”