03/08/2013 05:23 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Midfielder John Bostock arrives in Toronto with potential -- and a soccer past

TORONTO - At 15, he was wanted by the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United.

By that time, he had already spent eight years in Crystal Palace's academy. He made his debut for Palace's first team as a second-half substitute in October 2007.

"Meet John Bostock, aged 15, the boy Barcelona can't buy," was the Daily Mail headline at the time.

"John Bostock is Crystal Palace's new prince," said the Daily Telegraph.

Bostock was 15 years 287 days, the youngest player ever to represent Palace and the then 17th-youngest to play pro soccer in England.

Six years later, Bostock is 21 and a member of Toronto FC — the newest recruit through the revolving door at MLS's worst club.

"He has so much potential," said Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen, who spent time with Bostock at Spurs. "For a really young guy, he has a lot of experience under his belt.

"And hopefully we can bring it out and fans can see what a really good player he is."

Since leaving Palace for Tottenham for a 700,000-pound (C$1.075 million) fee in 2008, Bostock became the youngest player to play for the Spurs, at the age of 16 years, 295 days in a UEFA Cup match against Dynamo Zagreb.

Palace had fought to keep him, with a tribunal eventually setting the transfer fee.

"One of the best players my academy's produced in the last 10 years, has just been sold for a packet of crisps," lamented Palace's flamboyant chairman Simon Jordan.

Palace had valued Bostock at 4.5 million pounds ($6.9 million).

Chelsea reportedly had a bid of 900,000 pounds ($1.38 million) for him rejected when he was just 14.

Bostock has gone on to four different loan spells in England with Brentford FC (2009-10), Hull City (2010-11), Sheffield Wednesday (2011-12), and Swindon Town (2012-13).

In a 2010 article in The Sun, Bostock complained that he had to go out on loan to get games.

"You look at the foreign contingent over here and they're blocking us," he said. "It's so frustrating. You want to prove yourself, but it's hard when you don't get a chance."

Bostock acknowledges the early buzz about him was a negative as well as a positive.

"Obviously it was tough. I was 15 years old, I was playing in the first team (at Crystal Palace)," he said Friday. "And I had most clubs in Europe interested in me. So there was a lot to take at a young age.

"Now I've matured a little bit. I'm grown up and understanding the game more and my role as a player. I feel like that exposure as a young age has helped me.

"I was rated as a youngster. I'm still young. There's still time for me to fulfil that potential. I'm so hungry to show people what I've got."

Toronto FC represents his fifth loan deal.

"He's a Tottenham player 'til July ... and then he comes over to us," said Nelsen.

Bostock said once the loan deal expires in July, "we'll just see how things progress."

"I'm an attacking midfielder so I'm always looking to attack and hurt teams," he said by way of introduction. "I like to think I have a good shot on me.

"Goals and assists are my aim."

A search of YouTube confirms an exquisite left foot with some highlight-reel goals from distance.

One beauty, scored for Hull against Swansea, saw Bostock control a ball with his left foot before doing a 360 spin and hammering the ball into the top right corner of the net from more than 30 yards out.

Bostock, who spent time in camp with the San Jose Earthquakes prior to signing with Toronto, says he has been open to moving to MLS after seeing Simon Dawkins, a former teammate at Tottenham, experience success while on loan at San Jose MLS.

"When I heard Toronto was interested in me, I jumped at the opportunity," he said. "For me, at my age now, I'm just so hungry and keen just to get games under my belt and gain experience and to enjoy my football again.

"And I thought here's a great platform to do that."

Bostock made the trip to Vancouver with Toronto FC last week but his paperwork was not completed until Thursday when he and a club official went to the border to sign the required papers.

Bostock has represented England at the under-16, U17, and U19 levels. He also served as captain for England's U17 side.