It’s been a remarkable 24 months in the life of Jason Denayer.
Two years on from making his City bow for the u21s in the Hong Kong 7s, Jason made his first senior international start for Belgium against France in the Stade de France on Sunday night.
The 19-year old didn’t just feature but earned rave reviews for a performance which belied his modest years, earning praise from his international manager and his skipper for club and country, Vincent Kompany.
Special shoutout to one of our great talents @Jasondenayer . Great performance. Keep focused, keep working hard. #MCFC #Belgium— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) June 7, 2015
Denayer, who has benefitted from a hugely impressive season-long loan at Celtic, shone against France’s seasoned attacking trident of Mathieu Valbuena, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann in Belgium’s 4-3 win in Paris.
Throughout, the youngster’s strength, decision-making and passing range were on full display, as well as his ability to bring the ball out from the back to launch Belgian attacks.
The Red Devils were 4-1 up when Jason was withdrawn with a slight ankle knock on 85 minutes – the fact that they conceded two in quick succession may tell its own story…
Reflecting on his first senior start, Denayer told journalists after the game: "It was very exciting - I was directly in the game and I gave 100%.
“I had to quickly win my challenges so the game could go better for us - I will remember this victory. It has been a wonderful experience for me.
“I have been told to play like I have with Celtic and with Celtic, I go forward so it’s what I did when I could find spaces.”
Typically understated words from a footballer who doesn’t seem to be fazed by any opponent or any stage despite his relative inexperience.
Following the Hong Kong 7s in 2013, Denayer earned a nomination for EDS Player of the Season for 2012/13 following 31 appearances for Patrick Vieira’s side across the u21 Premier League and the UEFA Youth League.
Those performances saw him go with the first-team on their pre-season tour to Scotland and the United States where once again he caught the eye with his classy, unfussy brand of defending against experienced strikeforces.
This indomitable, nonchalant attitude has been noted by his international manager Marc Wilmots, who compared the Jette-born defender to the man voted as the Premier League’s best player for last season.
“Jason is a lot like Eden Hazard,” Wilmots said. “Always calm. I’ve never seen him nervous; he has a lot of confidence and there will be someone with experience standing next to him.
“It is not too early for him. He has the qualities and if he does something wrong…that is my fault.”
Denayer made 44 appearances in all competitions for Celtic last season and it’s fair to say that Hoops supporters were sad to see him go after he claimed the SPL Young Player of the Year award, as well as the club’s own Young Player of the Year award.
It’s a ringing endorsement for City’s loan system that a player can go on to receive a full international debut on the strength of a season out at one of Europe’s top clubs.
Marcos Lopes has similarly benefitted from his term at Lille OSC in Ligue 1 and their progress has been keenly traced by the man who managed them at under-21 level for the previous season, Vieira.
“We have to give them the right development, and that means sending them on loan,” said the EDS boss earlier in the campaign.
“When I watch Jason playing for Celtic, or Marcos Lopes playing at Lille, it makes us really proud.
“The way they are performing let’s me know we are doing things the right stuff. We have to keep doing it. The object is to provide players for the first team, but we know the gap is massive from under-21 to the first team – but this is one way we can get them there.”
Jason’s excellent international debut has inevitably led to many City supporters banging the drum for the defender to be involved with the first-team setup at the Etihad Stadium next season.
Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but for now, the Belgian is just thinking about his next assignment – the all-important Euro 2016 qualifier against Wales on Friday night.
Both nations are locked on 11 points at the top of Group B ahead of this meeting in Cardiff and, with Kompany suspended, Jason is expected to start after his successful audition.
He declared: “If on Friday I have to face Wales? I am ready!”
This youngster looks ready to take on the world.