A FOOTBALL star that has epilepsy and whose father represented Great Britain’s deaf team has just secured a dream move that will see him come up against Lionel Messi.
And he will be aiming to put the Argentine superstar to sword just like he did the icon’s great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 6ft 4in midfielder departs the Riverside as a huge fan favourite following his two-and-a-half years at the Riverside.
He made 115 appearances for Boro, scoring 23 times, including a famous strike against Manchester United.
The Leeds-born ace grew up supporting the Red Devils, but his equaliser in the FA Cup back at Old Trafford sent the fourth round tie to penalties, which Boro went on to win 8-7, after Ronaldo had earlier missed a spot-kick.
Crooks penned an emotional farewell after his exit was confirmed, saying: “Only six months ago, I described this place as home and that it will remain. But life is short and we only get one go at it, and to have the chance to experience football and life in another country with my family was one I was keen to take up.
“Under each manager came different challenges and plenty of positions, yet all provided me with memories which I am sure I’ll be able to look back on fondly. Reading at home, United away, Spurs at home, Chelsea at home. Fantastic.
“Good luck to everyone involved with the club for the rest of this campaign, I’m sure the lads and staff will give everything ’til the season ends.”
He played in various positions under several different managers at Middlesbrough, but he is looking forward to being deployed as a No.10 out in America – and facing one the greatest ever in that position too.
Crooks said: “MLS is getting a bigger name and a better reputation.
“Obviously with the likes of Messi and what have you coming over, that’s really enhanced the sport over here. I’m just looking forward to it.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a Salt Lake or an RSL professor just yet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know more. That’s what I’m coming over for.
“I think my role will be as one of the 10s. I think you’d like me to be in that 10 role.”
Crooks’ journey to America has been incredible off the pitch as well as on it.
As a player, he started at Huddersfield Town before having spells at Halifax, Hartlepool, Accrington, Rangers, Scunthorpe, Northampton and Rotherham before Boro.
Away from the turf, the popular player with epilepsy, overcame the loss of a long-time footballing friend as well as growing up in a family where both his parents were deaf.
Speaking previously to BBC, he said: “My dad is proud to be deaf, my mum is proud to be deaf, but I’m the same way about epilepsy in a way.
“It’s a dangerous condition and can have serious consequences, but it’s part of me and part of who I am so I should embrace it and not live in fear of something happening.”
He is not the only member of his family with an impressive sporting career.
His father Dave Great Britain in football at four deaf Olympics and amassed a collection of one gold, a silver and a bronze medal.
Crooks said: “My dad doesn’t forget to remind me about it.
“He did a good job of making the most of what he had, even if it held him back in other parts of his life, he still made sure sport was a big part of his life and that’s something I get from him.
“It’s classed as a disability, but I’ve never looked at it and thought they’re disabled, they’re just deaf and it’s a different world to the hearing world. It’s not something to be looked down on.”
Crooks is also involved in two charities, The Peter Doody Foundation – which aims to normalise epilepsy – and the Jordan Sinnott Foundation Trust – where he is the vice-chair and trustee, in honour of his late ex-Huddersfield team-mate.