Gabriel Slonina has opened up about his special relationship with the Chicago Fire as he prepares for life as a Chelsea player.
The 18-year-old completed a $15m move to the Premier League giants earlier this summer, placing Slonina fifth on the list of most expensive outgoing transfers in MLS history, while the fee was a record for the Chicago Fire.
For now, however, Slonina's thoughts remain on Chicago, where he'll stay on loan until the end of the 2022 season. In an interview with 90min on Thursday, the goalkeeping sensation described the role the Fire has played in his development and how much the club will 'always' mean to him.
"Chicago and Addison will always be home. I'll always have Chicago Fire in my blood wherever I go, no matter where I'm at, it's a team that feels like home to me," Slonina told 90min. "I grew up playing in Chicago. I grew up playing with the Chicago Fire Academy. So it'll always feel like home. It'll always be in my blood, the values we share here. Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart forever."
From coaches and teammates to club staff, Slonina extended a heartfelt message of gratitude to every single person who has helped his dream move to Chelsea become a reality.
"Honestly, I don't think I would do justice to every single person who helped me if I had named just one person," he added. "I think I have to say thanks to everybody, the coaching staff, my teammates, the athletic trainers, because every single person played a huge part in making sure that I made this move.
"All of them were pushing me every single day and trying to help me, whether that was physically or mentally, to push me to the next level and to always be performing. So I think I just want to say thank you to the whole Chicago Fire organization."
Though still a teenager himself, Slonina appreciates the responsibility he carries while making the move to Chelsea, effectively becoming an ambassador for the Chicago Fire in Europe and acting as a source of inspiration for other young players at the club looking to follow a similar path.
So, as the trailblazer, what would Slonina's message to those up-and-coming prospects be?
"I think the message would be to follow your dreams, right? I'm going from Addison United to Chicago Fire to Chelsea. It's unbelievable what work and perseverance and always believing in yourself can do for you," Slonina said.
"I think that it's a good example to all the kids that are wanting to be professionals. You can do it, you can come from anywhere and go to the leagues you used to watch every morning. It's doable for sure. And I think that, with hard work and like I said, believing in yourself and always following your dreams, I think that you can take yourself very far in life."
You can read the rest of 90min's interview with Gabriel Slonina here.
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