Australia appear to have won the race to secure the international future of Rovers youngster Zak Gilsenan, once dubbed ‘the Irish Messi’.

The teenager is currently in the first of a two-year scholarship at Rovers, in what has already been a whirlwind career for the Perth-born teenager who has already represented Barcelona and Liverpool.

Gilsenan arrived at Ewood Park as a 15-year-old, following an injury-hit time at Anfield, and has played a key part in helping Mike Sheron’s side to the last four of the FA Youth Cup, scoring in the fifth round round win over Preston North End and starting the quarter-final triumph against Arsenal.

The Irish Football Association had tried to tempt Gilsenan to pledge his allegiance to them, the attacker having made his debut for the Australian Under-17s side, nicknamed ‘the Joeys’, against South Korea last year.

And Gilsenan says he is ready to commit his international future to the Socceroos long-term, despite also being eligible for England, as well as Ireland.

He said: “I was born in Australia and they’re the country I have a really good feeling for.

“I was there until the age of nine, growing up and playing junior football at Sorrento (in Perth).

“It would be massive for me to one day play for the Socceroos and I’m really going to push for that.”

Gilsenan’s career to date has already been something of a tug of war between clubs fighting for his services.

The No.10 earned the ‘Irish Messi’ nickname after scoring seven goals for Barcelona during a trial match, aged just nine, which unsurprisingly earned him a deal at their famed La Masia Academy.

Gilsenan admits the ‘Irish Messi’ tag which has followed him around is ‘a bit strange’ but he looks back on that spell with fondness, having also been on the radar of Tottenham Hotspur before the Spanish giants came calling.

“Being there was an unbelievable experience - learning different styles of football. We played on astroturf a lot which was good for your touch,” he explained of his two-year stay with the Catalan side.

His time at Barca was shortlived however, relocating to England at the age of 11, with Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal among those battling it out for his services when he made his move to England.

But Liverpool were his next destination, although his spell with the Reds was hit by injury, available for only 18 months of a four-year stay.

Rovers were one of a quartet of teams keen to secure his signature, and Gilsenan admits it’s been a move that’s worked out well so far, having agreed a two-year scholarship last summer

“It was a family decision to go there,” he explained.

“There was also interest from Aston Villa, Norwich and Leicester.

“I just thought it would be the best place to go on and hopefully play first-team football.

“I loved Blackburn the first time I walked through the door - and had my heart set on joining them.”

Gilsenan has largely been part of the Under-18s set-up, the teenager, not 17 until May, scoring once in 12 appearances in the league.

He has also stepped up to represent Billy Barr’s Under-23s side, something he hopes to do more regularly when the season resumes.

His talent has also been recognised at first-team level, training with Tony Mowbray’s squad at times, with Gilsenan living out something of a childhood dream.

His next step will be to join Isaac Whitehall and Jake Garratt, two of Sheron’s squad already to have signed professional terms at Ewood Park, but Gilsenan is happy with how things are going for now.

“I think I’m doing quite well at the moment, to be honest. I’ve progressed a lot over the last few months,” he said in an interview with SBS, The World Game.

“I’ve trained with the first team at Blackburn three times now - and I couldn’t be happier to have joined them.

“It’s decent to have got a few chances with the Under-23s. I’m living my childhood dream.”

There is great interest in Gilsenan from Down Under, not least owing to Rovers' historical links to the Socceroos, with Australians Robbie Slater, Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton and Vince Grella all having represented the club, while Jamie MacLaren, now with Melbourne City and a senior international, having come through the Academy ranks.