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Fulham have beaten Manchester United to the signing of Cameroon-born sensation Noe Baba. The 16-year-old prodigy has agreed terms on a move to Craven Cottage, and will join the Londoners in January subject to international clearance.

Baba, who plays for Castlebar Celtic in County Mayo, has already passed a Fulham medical and agreed a contract that will run from the turn of the year.

A fee, believed to be £129,000, has been agreed after Fulham outflanked a host of other clubs interested in the youngster, led by United. Baba was born in Cameroon but moved to Ireland with his family when he was a boy and became the first African player to captain an Irish age-group team when he led the Under-17s.

The teenager, who turned 16 in August, has progressed rapidly through the ranks and was drafted into the Republic of Ireland Under-19 squad last month, making three full appearances for Paul Doolin’s side. He is highly regarded on both sides of the Irish Sea for his versatility and aptitude. Baba has been frequently used at centre-half but is expected to eventually be deployed as a full-back or midfield anchorman.

The deal is regarded as a coup for Fulham, who moved quickly to complete the transfer in the face of strong competition from a string of clubs, including United, Sunderland and Celtic.