Unknown today, superstars tomorrow: youngsters who took the FIFA World Cup by storm | football | Hindustan Times
  • Monday, Jun 18, 2018
  •   °C  
Today in New Delhi, India
Jun 18, 2018-Monday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Unknown today, superstars tomorrow: youngsters who took the FIFA World Cup by storm

Just like how Pele was ‘discovered’ in Sweden, the FIFA World Cup 2018 should have its share of players using the tournament to further their careers.

football Updated: Jun 02, 2018 11:14 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Pele was an international for almost a year before the Sweden sojourn in 1958 but football wasn’t the globally televised sport it is now and digital connectivity was an idea whose time still hadn’t come.
Pele was an international for almost a year before the Sweden sojourn in 1958 but football wasn’t the globally televised sport it is now and digital connectivity was an idea whose time still hadn’t come. (Getty Images)

The most famous young player in a World Cup was one who was also said to be the world’s most popular four-letter word.

In ‘My Life And The Beautiful Game’, before the game against Russia, Pele said: “I am sure that some of those in the stands are faintly amused to see a child on the field in a World Cup match, and some are probably outraged that as important an event as a World Cup match should be reduced to parody by having an infant on the field.”

Pele was an international for almost a year before the Sweden sojourn. He had everything an inside-forward needed — agility, muscles, ball control, a powerful shot and legs like they were hewn off tree trunks that helped him outjump taller defenders and score with headers.

READ | Germany to lift 2018 FIFA World Cup trophy, according to financial experts

Today such a talent would have gone into the World Cup already a star. But football wasn’t the globally televised sport it is now and digital connectivity was an idea whose time still hadn’t come.

That explains why more is known about Achraf Hakimi, Real Madrid and Morocco’s 19-year-old defender, going into this World Cup than it was 60 years ago about the player who became football’s first superstar.

From Guillermo Stabile in 1930 to Paul Pogba in Brazil, every World Cup has had a young star. From 2006, Fifa started an award for the best young player.

It went to Lukas Podolski but that Cristiano Ronaldo was on the shortlist --- along with Lionel Messi ---- was reason enough for English journalists to get uptight inside the cavernous auditorium of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium because they felt he shouldn’t have got Wayne Rooney sent off.

READ | Neymar left out of main Brazil team at 2018 FIFA World Cup camp

Diego Maradona was left out of the 1978 squad so it wasn’t till 1998 that another teenager would take the World Cup by storm.

Michael Owen could have been the story of France ’98 had David Beckham not had a momentary lapse of reason. Owen looked frail but give him a football and he was gone with the wind.

This edition should have its share of young players using the World Cup to further their careers. No wonder Manchester City are mulling new deals for Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane even though they have years to run in their current contracts.

James Rodriguez used his wonder goal against Uruguay in Brazil to secure a deal with Real Madrid. As did Toni Kroos who didn’t let a horrible mistake, which Gonzalo Higuain couldn’t capitalise on, cloud his future prospects.

READ | France put on clinical show to beat Italy ahead of FIFA World Cup 2018

While World Cup coaches talk about the need for a blend of youth and experience, the number of young players in a squad is also a statement on the health of football in that country.

One reason why Italy aren’t going to Russia is because ageing legs couldn’t take them there. Theirs is a study in contrast with Germany, France or, say, Spain who have in Marco Asensio a 22-year-old. Or even England who are the world’s under-17 and under-20 champions.

Young dreams should be dreamed together and young hearts shouldn’t be afraid, sang Cliff Richards many years ago. Even if they don’t know the song, Russia should see some footballers thinking on these lines.

THE YOUNG AND RESTLESS
Every four years, someone like Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez takes the world by surprise. Here are some renowned faces in club football who could reach out to a wider fan base in national colours
Kylian Mbappe, 19
Club: Manchester City
Country: Brazil
National team appearances: 15
International debut: 2016
Position: Forward
If Neymar’s not 100%, Brazil can bank on him. With seven goals in 10 games, he is Brazil’s highest scorer in qualifiers. And he can play as an orthodox No.9 as well as a false nine or a No.10. Not for nothing did Pep Guardiola bring him on for Sergio Aguero in his first Premiership start. He could be offered a raise before Russia to ward off poaching threats.
Gabriel Jesus, 22
Club: Manchester City
Country: Brazil
National team appearances: 15
International debut: 2016
Position: Forward
If Neymar’s not 100%, Brazil can bank on him. With seven goals in 10 games, he is Brazil’s highest scorer in qualifiers. And he can play as an orthodox No.9 as well as a false nine or a No.10. Not for nothing did Pep Guardiola bring him on for Sergio Aguero in his first Premiership start. He could be offered a raise before Russia to ward off poaching threats.
Leroy Sane, 22
Club: Manchester City
Country: Germany
National team appearances: 11
International debut: 2015
Position: Wide/attacking medio
Man City thought he was worth £46.5m at 20 and signed him for five years. This season Sane has 58 appearances and scored 23 goals including two against Liverpool. He is also PFA’s Young Player of the Year. The buzz is City would offer him £90,000 weekly before he flies to Russia.
Timothy Werner, 22
Club: RB Leipzig
Country: Germany
National team appearances: 12
International debut: 2017
Position: Forward
One of Germany’s Confederation Cup heroes and Golden Boot winner with three goals and two assists, he is a VfB Stuttgart academy product. He had 21 goals in 45 games last term with seven in Europe. In 2016-17, he scored 21 goals in 32 games.
Andreas Christensen, 22
Club: Chelsea
Country: Denmark
National team appearances: 14
International debut: 2015
Position: Central defender
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte thinks this centre-back should stay for the next 12 years. That he has been preferred over David Luiz in Chelsea says a lot about the potential of Denmark’s Talent of the Year in 2015.