Having been born in Spain to Scottish parents, Harper has been earmarked as a potential Scotland star ever since making a name for himself as one of the hottest prospects in Real Madrid’s youth academy, and the 22-year-old is currently spearheading Malaga’s attempt to win promotion back to La Liga.
However, it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for Harper, who has revealed he came tantalisingly close to a move to England’s Premier League when Stoke came calling several seasons ago.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Harper recalled: ”
“I’ve never really told anyone but I was going to Stoke and, in the end, they never signed me because of injury.
“I spoke with Mark Hughes, everything was done. They’d watched me all year [and] had a plan for me, they wanted me in the first team quickly. But the doctors said no.”
“That wasn’t fun.
“Yeah, that was heart-breaking. I’ve not cried much in my life and that was a sad day.”
Harper has also spoken about being left out of Scotland’s Under-19 squad for a crucial European Championship qualifier back in 2015, after then manager Ricky Sbragia described him as a “luxury player”.
Sbragia was roundly criticised for his comments, and Harper has given his take on the matter, adding: ” I was hurt not to be in. I thought I deserved to go and I’m not sure why he didn’t want me.
“I wouldn’t class myself as a luxury player.
“Ask anyone nowadays, the first thing they’d say is I’m a hard worker. He’s in his rights to not take a player [but] I think he chose his words wrong, he was a bit unlucky with his words.
“He should have talked to me. I never got a call. I was a bit upset just reading things in the press. But things like that made me stronger, more prepared.”
Harper has been one of Malaga’s star performers this season in Spain’s Segunda División, starting 17 of 24 games and scoring four goals so far, but could he soon be on the verge of a call-up from Alex McLeish?
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