March 25, 2023

But by a quirk of fate, Weston McKennie could easily have put on an American football shirt instead of a Leeds United shirt tonight.

The affable US international arrives from Italy today to complete his move from Juventus on loan, a deal that can be made permanent for £30 million.

But if McKennie’s father John had taken on a different calling 18 years ago, the young Texan always believed he would have made a career in the NFL rather than being one of his country’s most talented “football players.”

Juventus star Weston McKennie is about to move to Leeds United for £30 million

John McKennie, a staff sergeant in the Army, was due for a permanent change of post. They considered Alaska, but the family chose Germany and Ramstein Air Base, about 10 miles outside of Kaiserslautern, instead.

It was there that McKennie first became acquainted with football.

“Germany was the starting point: I didn’t know football was more of a sport,” says McKennie. “I used to go across the street to play with my brother and then I met my first coach.” Despite what he might have become differently, McKennie doesn’t hesitate for long. “I’d probably play American football, weighing about 200 pounds and stocky here.

“I played that before I moved to Germany because my father was in the army. That’s one of the reasons why I started playing football, because they didn’t have that in Germany for my age.’

Mckennie Was First Introduced To Football 18 Years Ago After His Father, A Sergeant, Moved The Family To Germany

McKennie was first introduced to football 18 years ago after his father, a sergeant, moved the family to Germany

Schalke Called In 2016, When He Avoided The Mls And A Scholarship

Schalke called in 2016, when he avoided the MLS and a scholarship

It may not go over well with Leeds United investors from the San Francisco 49ers, but McKennie has even impressed the Cleveland Browns coaching staff after putting on a virtuoso quarterback show after practice in one of the US Gold Cup training camps. Not content with textbook 60-yard spiral throws at all angles, he finished with a pair of 50-yard field goals.

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“I think I could have made it to the NFL if I had kept it up. I’m one of those guys where whatever I do, I try to give 100 percent,” says the Washington Commanders fan. “So if that was American football, I would have stuck to it and given everything for it.”

McKennie joined his first football club, FC Phönix Otterbach, in 2004 as a six-year-old. He was taken by his mother Tina, keen to channel his boisterous nature elsewhere, and made a good first impression, not with his unorthodox khaki shorts, but scoring eight goals in his first game had him hooked.

When his father was sent back to the US a few years later, McKennie continued to develop at FC Dallas while keeping an eye on American football, but when Schalke came calling in 2016, he eschewed the MLS and a college scholarship his father preferred gave to. betting on a return to Germany. He never looked back. “I made the right decision and have absolutely no regrets.”

It takes character to take such a leap of faith and those close to McKennie say he has that in abundance. What made the decision he made at that crossroads in his life all the more bold was the fact that some American coaches had told him he wouldn’t be good enough. The setbacks exhausted him mentally and he considered quitting. Instead, he used their words as motivation.

The American Has Made A Career Across Europe In The Bundesliga And Serie A

The American has made a career across Europe in the Bundesliga and Serie A

Ultra-competitive, his first coach David Mueller says “some of his teammates didn’t want to play a single game with Weston,” he was so annoying.

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Such a hatred of losing was forged during his formative days with big brother John Jr. in the shadow. The two football-loving siblings often tested each other. Indeed, Weston has had a scar under his left eye since the day John “tackled him and hit the TV.”

Bustling in the locker room, he’s quick to show off his dance moves and loves to chill in a flashy cheetah-print adidas tracksuit, but McKennie also quickly gets serious when kickoff comes.

His talent was also reaffirmed when former Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo, the renowned Italian midfield maestro, opted to sign him for Juventus in 2020.

However, a demanding Pirlo warned him to get serious and “more professional” amid concerns about his fluctuating weight. “Now he is concentrated and more professional than when he arrived. He’s lost weight and that’s something we had to drill into his mentality,” Pirlo said. “He should be professional at 100st, not 50st.”

Following the lessons, McKennie was entrusted with several roles at Juventus, including that of the attacking ‘mezzala’, and began to add more goals to his game. He scored the fastest hat-trick in American men’s history, taking three in 13 minutes against Cuba and few hits were more memorable than his scissor kick for Juventus in their Champions League victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Harry Potter Fanatic Mckennie Adopted Imaginary Wand Waving As His Goal Celebration

Harry Potter fanatic McKennie adopted imaginary wand waving as his goal celebration

Providing that bit of magic may have been inspired by his passion for JK Rowling’s little wizard Harry Potter. McKennie has been an ardent fan since his grandmother bought him the books when he was six. He even adopted imaginary magic wand waving as his goal celebration.

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He’s not shy about entertaining and has already made his big screen debut, teaming up with the animated cat ‘Puss in Boots’ to plug the latest film from the Dreamworks studio last November, coinciding with the U.S. involvement. at the World Cup.

His profile has risen so much in Italy that even his beloved American Akita dogs, whom he hopes to bring over to Yorkshire, have become celebrities.

“Juve are the biggest club in Italy at the moment, so if I walk into town, which I don’t do very often, I’m probably stopped every 10 yards,” said McKennie. “In Italy people will follow you for like 200 meters and walk into shops you go to and corner you and take pictures, which I think is part of the profession, but it’s also one of the things I just I want to be by myself, just enjoy a walk or walk my dogs.

His Profile Has Risen So Much In Italy That Even His Beloved American Akita Dogs, Whom He Hopes To Bring Over To Yorkshire, Have Become Celebrities

His profile has risen so much in Italy that even his beloved American Akita dogs, whom he hopes to bring over to Yorkshire, have become celebrities

“Even my dogs in Italy are recognizable now, so it’s kind of hard to just get out.”

Juve is the boyhood club of Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani, so transferring McKennie, a player long associated with some of Europe’s elite, from Turin to Elland Road has added luster.

It’s a bold move, but a reasoned one from Radrizzani, knowing that McKennie is already close with future teammates Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams.

The dream is that McKennie can help Leeds achieve their goals, although the newcomer still hasn’t given up on potentially switching to that different football code one day.

“Who knows,” says McKennie. “Maybe I’ll turn pro someday, but by being a kicker.”