Arsenal’s next Fábregas? Wonderkid Gedion Zelalem has world at his feet

The outrageously talented 16-year-old German-Ethiopian, who can ‘dribble like Iniesta and pass like Xavi’, is set to be included in the Arsenal squad to face Coventry City on Friday night

By David Hytner

Having missed the Capital One Cup with a knee injury, Gedion Zelalem is in line to make his debut against Coventry. Photograph: Charlie Forgham-Bailey/Corbis
Having missed the Capital One Cup with a knee injury, Gedion Zelalem is in line to make his debut against Coventry. Photograph: Charlie Forgham-Bailey/Corbis

(The Guardian) Gedion Zelalem is 16 years old. He has yet to feature in a competitive game for Arsenal, although that could change on Friday night in the FA Cup against Coventry City. He does not even have a professional contract, although that, too, is about to change. When he turns 17 on Sunday, he is due to sign his first professional deal. The pitfalls of promoting him are large and obvious. How can the hype begin so soon? The English media always builds them up to knock them down. It is unfair.

The disclaimer, however, rings hollow in this case or, at least, it is overwhelmed by the weight of excitement that has built around this precocious midfield talent. At Arsenal, they dare to believe that they have unearthed their most promising player since Cesc Fábregas while the story of Arsène Wenger’s first look at the boy, during his trial at the club, has crackled around football’s grapevine.

The manager watched for a matter of minutes before he pulled Zelalem’s father to one side. “Your son will play for Arsenal,” Wenger said. Academy forms would be prepared. He joined upon his 16th birthday last January. Read more…

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