Record payout for young footballer

FOOTBALLER Ben Collett, described by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as an "outstanding" player, was today awarded more than £4.3million damages at the High Court in London over a tackle which ended his career.

But the compensation to be received by the 23-year-old from Bolton will be even greater when sums for future loss of pension and interest on past loss of earnings are determined at a hearing set for October.

Mrs Justice Swift, sitting in London, today announced that when all of the figures were decided, the final sum to be awarded was not likely to be less than £4.5million.

At a recent hearing in Manchester, Ferguson said Collett had an "outstanding chance" of becoming a full-time professional if he had not been injured.

Collett, now 23, joined United's youth academy aged nine and signed youth contracts, becoming part of the club's FA Youth Cup-winning team in 2003.

But, aged 18 and in his first game in the reserves in May 2003, he had his right leg broken in two places in a tackle by Middlesbrough's Gary Smith.

Both Smith and the club admitted liability for the "negligent" tackle and the judge's task was to decide on the level of compensation that Collett should receive from Middlesbrough's insurers.

Mrs Justice Swift said she had found that had it not been for the injury Collett would have been offered, in July 2003, a three-year professional contract with Manchester United.

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