A YOUNG footballer faces a wait to find out if his multi-million pound damages claim for a horrific tackle which prematurely ended his career is successful.

Ben Collett, 23, could have commanded a salary in excess of £16 million if he had played until the age of 35, Manchester High Court heard.

The promising footballer joined Manchester United's Youth Academy aged nine, becoming part of the club's FA Youth Cup-winning team in 2003.

But, aged 18 and in his first game in the reserves in May 2003, he had his right leg broken in two places in a tackle by Middlesbrough FC's Gary Smith.

Both Smith and the club have admitted liability for the ''negligent'' tackle.

Manchester United captain Gary Neville, 33, told the court he would have expected Collett to become ''a top-level football player''.

Club manager Sir Alex Ferguson described Collett as ''A-class'' with an ''outstanding chance'' of becoming a full-time professional if he had not been injured.

Collett was unable to forge a career in the professional game after the injury and is now studying English.

The five-day hearing was to decide the level of damages Collett should receive from Middlesbrough's insurers.

Mrs Justice Swift has reserved judgment in the case. She is expected to announce her decision in the next month.