In 2013, Arsenal fans were getting excited about the talent of one of their young talents. Gedion Zelalem was looking like a future superstar in the Arsenal midfield. Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents he had been discovered in the USA playing for Olney Rangers.
His former coach at the club Matt Pilkington spoke of him with high praise. As reported by The Guardian, he stated that Zelalem ‘dribbles like Iniesta’ and ‘passes like Xavi’.
“I honestly think Gedion has the talent to become a great player, but that will be decided in the next two or three years because he has to show that he has the mental level required to be a top-level competitor.”
His form for Arsenal in pre-season tours and with the youth team had him being tipped for stardom. Tipped as the ‘next Cesc Fabregas’ by plenty, Arsenal fans were feeding off the hyperbole. In January 2014, he made his first-team debut for Arsenal.
Rightly so. Zelalem looked a top talent capable of emulating Fabregas and making his way into the Arsenal first-team.
“Everybody knows him: Quality, good on the ball, great vision. Everybody’s talking about him.”
But five years on, and Zelalem has not reached such great heights.
Zelalem’s spent time on loan at both Rangers and VVV Venlo but suffered a horrific knee injury during his time at the Dutch club from which he never recovered a first-team shot at Arsenal.
In March this year, Zelalem left Arsenal, joining MLS side Sporting Kansas City. Even this move has failed to ignite the former Gunners wonderkid.
He has most recently been playing with the club’s development club, Swope Park Rangers, who sit bottom of America’s USL Championship table.
“He sees passes that not a lot of players can. You think ‘what’s he doing?’ and suddenly someone is in. He’s only 16 and he’s an exciting player.”
Arsenal fans will no doubt hope that Zelalem can find his feet again considering just how big a talent he looked like being when he first burst onto the scene.
At just 22, there is still plenty of time for the USA youth international to make his mark. As for being the ‘next Fabregas’, it appears that opportunity has passed him by.