Former Cameroonian footballer Thierry Mangwa-Batomen first identified the attacker in 2015, when he was with Ottawa Gloucester Hornets.
Speaking to Sport Witness, Mangwa-Batomen has discussed talks with Aston Villa for the 20-year-old and why he would be best suited to Everton, Crystal Palace or Newcastle United.
The 35-year-old, who become an agent and scout after his playing career, is currently residing in Canada and details how he first came across the talented player.
“He was playing for a team in Ottawa. Somebody told me there’s a young boy and he’s very good. I went to see one of his games, that was not far from Toronto. That game, he scored four goals. I said to myself that this guy can go far,” he said.
Mangwa-Batomen was so impressed with David’s talent, he decided to make a long trip just to watch him in action for Ottawa Gloucester Hornets and track his progress first hand.
“So, I followed him and I watched like four of his games. Two of them were not far from where I am, in Mississauga and the other two were in Ottawa,” the former player explained.
“I used to drive 450 kms one way to watch a young boy play for his youth team. I went alone. The first game I watched him was close to where I live.
“After the first game, I spoke to his coach about him and he told me he’s a very good player. I took his coach’s number and he would tell me if Jonathan’s playing or not and that’s how I used to plan my trip to Ottawa.
“Even with the national team. I also got in touch with the national [U17] team coach. His name is Patrick Omer Nyamsi Tobo. He told me Jonathan is a very good kid.”
With the current Gent star then continuing to impress with his displays for Ottawa Gloucester Hornets, Mangwa-Batomen made another long trip from Mississauga to Ottawa, this time to hold talks with David’s parents.
“After all that, I went to see his parents. I drove there to meet them. I spoke to his mum and dad. That time he was 16. I talked to his dad,” Mangwa-Batomen stressed.
“When I went there, they were happy because it was the first time someone came to talk about their son.
“That time I was an agent. I told them I came from Toronto. They were happy that somebody’s interested in their kid. I told them, unfortunately to bring their son to Europe, he had to be 18.”
Mangwa-Batomen’s former teammate Gregoire Akcelrod was an agent in France, and the former tried to use the help of his friend to try to get David a club in England. This is where Aston Villa came into the picture.
“I spoke to Gregoire about Jonathan. I think he spoke to Aston Villa and a few other clubs in England,” he added.
When questioned how these clubs would be able to sign a non-EU youngster who is not 18 years of age, he said: “Yeah. You have to wait till he’s 18. I couldn’t do anything. I talked to his parents. Therefore, it’s not easy to put him in an academy there before he turns 18.
“Gregoire spoke to a couple of teams. Aston Villa were one among them. There were others too. Somehow, they didn’t pay attention. I told Gregoire that this kid is going to a very good player. There’s something about this boy.
“Our idea with English clubs was to keep an eye on Jonathan so they can sign him when he’s 18. Normally, that’s what we were thinking for.”
“If one of the parents move to England and if they are working there, then clubs could sign him for their academy [as per FIFA’s Article 19]. That’s what we were thinking about. Because the kid was very good. He was a very good player.”
Although Mangwa-Batomen was not representing Jonathan, he had a mandate from his parents to find a club for the youngster.
“No club in England paid attention to him. There were some clubs in Canada, but he wasn’t interested. His aim was to go to Europe. We couldn’t do anything apart from talking to some teams to see if they can give him a chance. But, they didn’t,” said Mangwa-Batomen.
“After that, I just lost track of the kid. After Gregoire tried for some clubs in England, I was in touch with Jonathan and his coach for four to five months. I used to always call the coach and ask him how he’s doing.”
“Somehow, I didn’t follow him anymore. I just let it go. I was telling Gregoire that we let this kid go. I spent time to watch this kid and we let it go just like that.
“The only thing I could do was to talk to his parents. The parents can only give you a mandate to find something for Jonathan. There was no written agreement. It was just verbal. I was just acting as an agent.
“There is nothing much you can do when he’s under 18 and not in Europe. You have to take a risk because he can choose whether to stay with me or go with someone else. I was taking the risk.
“His parents were happy with me because I was the first person who came to talk about Jonathan. They told me if I can find him a team, I was guaranteed that Jonathan would sign with me once he turns 18. That’s what they told me. They gave me the right to do what’s best for Jonathan.”
Akcelrod also backed up claims made by Mangwa-Batomen and gave an insight on his role in trying to find a club in Europe for David.
“I sent Jonathan’s profile to Aston Villa and four to five other English clubs. I also sent it to clubs in France. Because he played for an academy in Canada, no one gave a lot of attention,” Akcelrod said.
“Clubs receive a lot of potential new players from agents. Some clubs like to take risks, like Villa. But, most of the clubs they don’t care. If the player has not played for the national youth team or if he’s done something amazing in his resume, it’s not possible.
“The problem is he played in Canada and there’s no scouting network there. For English and French clubs, it was very complicated. It was like playing a lottery. But the truth is, I offered one player from Canada and it was Jonathan and he was a good one. When I saw the video, I felt he is of different class.”
Akcelrod also explained why it was difficult for the likes of Aston Villa and other European clubs to bet on the Canadian.
“He was a non-European player, playing for a small academy in Canada. He was very good in the videos. He was different class, but he played against small teams,” he added.
“It was difficult to know if he was good just because he played against small teams, or because he had amazing quality.
“It was a complicated case. You have one chance on €1m to have a player from Canada who can be a world star. So, it’s easier to bring a player from Europe than bring a kid from Canada. In Belgium, they took a chance and they made a good choice.
“I think he would have done very well in England too. But, in Belgium, they have a lot of choice. The work permit in the UK makes it very complicated. Therefore, Belgium and Portugal are the best markets for non-European players.”
David has been in fine form for the Jupiler Pro League side, scoring 23 goals and registering 10 assists in 40 matches in all competitions.
Akcelrod believes he would be a good addition for Arsenal: “For sure, this player will go big. He has a big potential and can further improve his overall game. He’s a player for Arsenal and if they take him, they will be very happy for many years.”
Mangwa-Batomen, however, has advised David to join one of Everton, Crystal Palace or Newcastle over bigger clubs.
“If he joins a big club now, he will not get lot of minutes. Maybe a team like Everton, Crystal Palace or Newcastle would be best for him. Going to a big team may not be good for him now. This kid will go far. He has talent. I think he will go far,” Mangwa-Batomen stressed.