116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

Location: New York, New York

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Get Off My Lawn

When we first laid eyes upon Wayne Rooney in 2002, he was the rarest of footballing delights, a genuine teenage sensation. Those of us who had been tantalized and amazed by Michael Owen five years earlier could only wonder what gifts Everton's then-16-year-old would bestow upon the soccer world, and it is safe to say we have not been disappointed thus far. By 18, Rooney was ready to step up to the highest levels of international play, and by 19 he was starring for Manchester United, eventually becoming a key man in England's most high-profile side. What amazes me, however, is that as our man Roo turns 21 today, he stands at the head of not only a spectacular generation of young attackers (Cristiano Ronaldo, Lukas Podolski, Kaka, Robinho and Carlos Tevez could be considered early-twenties contemporaries), but that had he debuted today he would only be one of a galaxy of teenage sensations.
Has there ever been a time when so many teenagers had the talent and poise to play as full internationals, as well as key members of their respective clubs? Argentina gave us the spectacular Lionel Messi in 2005, and is now set to introduce Sergio Aguero and Fernando Gago to their collection of stars this season. Cesc Fabregas became an Arsenal mainstay by 18, and is on the short track to superstardom with Spain. Andres Guardado was a teenage regular for Mexico during the World Cup, and El Tri will be displaying Giovanni Dos Santos any day now. Theo Walcott could be ready for the big-time with Arsenal and England by season's end, and Chelsea's John Obi Mikel could do the same with Nigeria. It seems that in 2006, teenagers are not merely curiosities; rather, they are expected to have an impact.
I was thinking about all of this the other day, when I was reading of how Manchester United and Bayern Munich were gearing up for a bidding war over a teenage player named Nani. "Who the eff is Nani?" was my initial thought, expecting some academy-level tussle over a player who wouldn't surface until 2009. Then I learned that the Nani in question is a 19-year-old Sporting Lisbon winger, currently carving up defenses in the Champions League and earning a Portugal callup. Remind you of anyone?
All of this spectacular young talent has us here on 116th Street on the lookout for any new teenagers on the horizon. Arsenal signs an 18-year-old named Denilson? We must investigate. Is Johan Djourou ready to be a starter? Of course he is. Where are the American youngsters? We've got them, both domestically (Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore) and abroad (Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen). With all of this (very) young talent on display, this game is going to be (very) exciting for a (very) long time, and I, for one, cannot wait!


Anonymous Lena said...

Don't forget Giuseppe Rossi. It's a shame Newcastle can't provide proper service for him.

Rossi was actually born in New Jersey-- but he plays for Italy internationally.

8:20 PM  

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