As unconventional football journeys go, Carlos Mendes Gomes would find himself at the top of the list and now he is looking to make his mark with Luton Town.
Arrival at Kenilworth Road marks the latest chapter in a remarkable career to date, not necessarily what he has achieved but more importantly, how he managed to do it.
The 22-year-old’s career so far has taken him from Atletico Madrid to West Didsbury, a team fans would be forgiven for not being as familiar with in comparison to the Spanish giants.
But let's start at the beginning. After leaving Senegal at the age of two, Carlos moved to Lanzarote as his dad, Carlos Sr, sought work in the construction industry. His son’s dream was rather different, and he moved to Madrid to chase his footballing dreams, leaving his parents and siblings behind at 12-years-old.
His talent was immediately spotted by Getafe and a year later by Atletico, but the same couldn’t be said about him in England, at least to begin with.
Four years later and before being able to make a sizeable impression with the Madrid giants, his dad’s work meant that he was on the move again, and from sunny Spain they travelled to not so sunny Salford.
The daunting thoughts would become a reality after spending more than a year trying to earn a breakthrough in the English game. Instead, he played at West Didsbury and Chorlton, in the 10th tier of the game, alongside his studies at Manchester College.
“It was a lot different from what I was used to. The pitches were not as great and we actually had to get the goalies to play outfield, but when you love the game, you just want to play and you will do anything to actually achieve that dream.”
It was at college where his talent was then recognised by Morecambe but even then, the script wasn’t quite how he would have imagined.
“The first year was really tough to find a club so the second year when I got a club, I knew that I needed to get playing, enjoy my football and hopefully someone will spot me in some sense. Football is about opinion, and it only takes one person to have the right opinion about you for you to kick on,” the youngster believes.
Following two years of sporadic first-team appearances, he was given his chance to shine under manager Derek Adams last season.
That proved to be fruitful for all involved, after he scored 16 times, the last of which he scored for the Shrimps was the winning goal in the play-off final victory against Newport County at Wembley Stadium.
The penalty in extra time sent Morecambe into League One for the first time in their history and was a crowning moment for the Spaniard who started his football career in England playing in Step 5 of the Non-League pyramid.
It’s an inspiring tale of a player who refused to give up on his dream and thus reaped the rewards in the summer after earning a move to Luton Town.
After he signed on the dotted line, Mendes Gomes reflected on just how he arrived at the point he is now in his career.
“It hasn’t been easy, it has been tough, but I think hard work and self-belief always pays off and I’m just excited to be here!”
Luton were certainly not the only team competing for his signature but he explained: “I felt like here was the right place for my progress, for me to actually enjoy football and for me to improve as a player. I think I’m at the right place, my family felt the same way, and the manager as well, the way that he spoke to me played a big, big, big part, so Luton Town were the right choice.”
Fans in attendance against Hitchin Town were able to get a 45 minute glimpse into the player he might be for the Hatters, and with a goal to his name, as well as plenty of neat touches and interplay, excitement is rightly high for a player who is looking to progress even more in his career.
“I would like to play as high as possible, when I retire and look back at my career I don’t want to have any regrets so I am willing to work as hard as possible and hopefully reach the Premier League.”