Sporting KC's Erik Palmer-Brown plays down rumored Juventus bid, eyes first-team minutes

If Erik Palmer-Brown is already getting this much attention, imagine what will happen when the 16-year-old center back finally gets his first competitive minutes with Sporting Kansas City.

The high school junior and US youth international, who turned pro last August as a Homegrown player, recently found himself at the center of a seven-figure transfer rumor involving Italian heavyweights Juventus – a bid neither he nor Sporting will confirm or deny.

“No deal has been made,” Palmer-Brown told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday from Tucson, Ariz., shortly before leaving Sporting's training camp to join the US Under-18 team for the Copa del Atlantico tournament in Spain. “I am here in Kansas City for, hopefully, a good amount of time.”

Still, the rumor – one variation of which had Palmer-Brown being purchased now but kept on loan to Sporting until he turns 18 – has boosted the young defender's profile worldwide.

“It's cool hearing it,” he said. “I gained a lot of followers on Twitter from it. That was probably the coolest part. But it's just fun being here with KC, being at home, being able to be around all my friends and being able to finish up high school at a place I love being at. Really, to me, it's not about all the Juventus talk. It's being with KC, being with friends and family while I'm still young, growing up.”

Those connections help keep him grounded, Palmer-Brown said.

“My family is really humbling,” he said. “They're good at keeping my head on straight. My friends are really helpful through it all. They help me out with homework. My old sixth-grade teacher lets me come over to her house to review me with math and English. It's a learning experience, knowing that people who have been in your life for a long time are looking to stay there – not for what you've become, but for what you were back then and what you are now.”

Palmer-Brown has shown exciting hints of what he will be as well, left back Seth Sinovic said.

“He's obviously a very talented player, or we wouldn't have signed him,” Sinovic said. “To be as young as he is, to be competing at the professional level with us every day in training, we see flashes of really good potential. He's young and he needs some more experience under his belt, but we've all noticed that the potential is there.”

And after starring for Sporting's Under-18 Academy team this past fall, which he is allowed to do as a Homegrown player, Palmer-Brown is hoping to get on the pitch this year in a competitive match for the senior side.

“I want to get out there and be able to play, but at the same time it's going to be tough,” he said. “Fighting for a position over Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin and Ike Opara, that's not an easy task. So I've got to keep putting the work in, keep my head on straight, finish my schoolwork and take care of things outside of soccer so I can be 100 percent focused when I'm on the field.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.