FORMER Cherries academy Joe Besant has signed for Cristiano Ronaldo’s former Portuguese side CD Nacional in Madeira, with proud Mum Naomi saying “he only went out with a bag packed for a week, we didn’t know they were going to sign him!”

Young goalkeeper Besant, 18, was in the academy since he was 14 but has now joined the Portuguese second division team following a successful trial in the North Atlantic archipelago.

Besant has lived in Romsey his whole life and was released by Championship Cherries following the end of last season, after two years on the scholarship programme, and was due to start at local club Eastleigh before this unusual move materialised.

A statue stands of Ronaldo, one of the planet’s greatest ever players, in hometown Madeira – with the legendary forward having spent 1995-97 at the same club Besant now plays for.

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It’s been a crazy turnaround for Joe and family, with Naomi telling the Bournemouth Echo: “I’m massively proud, massively. It’s still sinking in for him, bless him.

“After getting released at the end of last season, he had signed for Eastleigh but then randomly some agent got in touch with him and asked him to have a trial – and they signed him on the third day.

“I’ll make sure I’ll be cramping his style every five minutes,” she joked. “Joe only intended to go for a week so he went out with a bag packed with stuff, we didn’t realise they were going to sign him.

“I’m hoping to go out there next month if I can.”

On his time as a Cherries academy youngster, Naomi revealed: “He always got on really well there and he actually had a good two years with the scholarship.

“But what it comes down to is the first team goalkeeper coach makes the decisions on the ‘keepers and Joe had some inklings, he’d been on the bench a lot and hadn’t been playing, there was another goalkeeper who was training with the first team.

“But we always said to him how lucky he was to start his career with a big club in the local area.”

Hampshire National League outfit Eastleigh run an Elite Development Squad for players too old for typical scholarship deals (18+) but looking to get one more year of experience before embarking on professional terms.

Besant, who left The Mountbatten School in Romsey two years ago, was all signed and ready to go but Naomi says the club have been extremely supportive.

She said: “He joined the development squad and was due to start on Monday but got a call asking him to fly to Madeira on the Friday, and Eastleigh supported him.

“Joe was really happy to go with them and didn’t want to ruin his relationship with them, he wouldn’t have gone if they hadn’t backed him but they were amazing and said you know he can always go back.”