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Soccer player Julian Altobelli is shown in a handout photo. York 9 FC has signed the 17-year-old Canadian youth international, making the midfielder the CPL's club's youngest-ever player. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CPL MANDATORY CREDIT

The Canadian Press

York 9 FC has signed 17-year-old Canadian youth international Julian Altobelli, making the midfielder the Canadian Premier League club’s youngest-ever player.

York 9 says the former Toronto FC academy product becomes the third-youngest player on a CPL roster for the 2020 season. His contract contains options that could keep him at the club through 2023.

A local boy from Vaughan, Ont., Altobelli lives just five minutes from the CPL team’s York Lions Stadium.

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“Julian gets to start his professional career in his own backyard,” said York managing consultant Angus McNab.

Altobelli, who does not turn 18 until Nov. 4, joins 18-year-old Ijah Halley and 19-year-old Max Ferrari on the York roster.

The CPL makes a point of blooding new talent. Under league rules, at least three Canadians on each team must be under the age of 21, and those players must combine to play a minimum of 1,000 minutes per season.

“The under-21 rule is an important one for the league,” said McNab.

“Julian is a player that we see we can offer something that he can really take advantage of,” he added. “We can offer him minutes on the field now, potentially before is 18th birthday.”

Said Altobelli: “It’s a great opportunity for young players. And I think it’s good exposure for young players, to get their opportunity and to get their chance. Hopefully I can make the most of mine.”

York 9 announced the sale Tuesday of one of its under-21 players from last season, sending Emilio Estevez Tsai to ADO Den Haag of the Dutch top-flight Eredivisie. The transfer fee was $100,00 with potential to grow via add-ons and a sell-on clause.

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Altobelli was part of the Canadian team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil last fall, coming in off the bench in the group phase game against Angola.

He played for local clubs in Vaughan and Woodbridge before joining the Toronto FC academy at the age of 11. Most recently he was playing for the TFC academy under-19 team.

“I’m very thankful for my time at TFC,” he said. “I feel it was the right decision for me (to sign with York). I’m excited to get started with York 9.”

Altobelli is working on finishing high school via online courses.

Counting Juventus forward Paulo Dybala and Real Madrid midfielder Eden Hazard as his favourite players, Altobelli says he always played with older players and has good game awareness.

He has played attacking midfielder for the most part but says he can take on various roles in the midfield.

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The CPL, whose season was slated to start April 11, is currently on hiatus due to the global pandemic.

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