Lineker applauds ‘incredibly impressive’ England star with Yamal comparison: ‘He just bosses the place’

Matt Stead
England midfielder Kobbie Mainoo celebrates with his family
Kobbie Mainoo has been England's breakout star at Euro 2024

Gary Lineker and Micah Richards were stunned by the ‘incredibly impressive’ display of England and Man Utd midfielder Kobbie Mainoo against the Netherlands.

Mainoo continued his phenomenal Euro 2024 – despite being named in the worst XI of the tournament – with a commanding display in the semi-final victory over the Dutch.

The midfielder, the youngest player ever to feature in a major tournament semi-final for England, was exceptional in possession and no player made more tackles or interceptions than his two each.

On their The Rest Is Football podcast, Lineker and Richards were left awe-struck by the teenager’s excellence.

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“First half I thought it was really good football. Foden was unlucky – keeper made a good save, incredible shot that hit the woodwork, the clearance off the line, all from Foden,” Lineker said.

“I thought Mainoo was, again, he just bosses the place, he keeps the ball really well.

“Kobbie Mainoo, goodness me. Goodness me, what a footballer.”

Richards is most impressed by Mainoo‘s demeanour.

“It’s actually mindblowing,” he said. “I don’t want to go overboard but for someone who has not really been in the England setup, who was supposed to play the year before at Manchester United but got a bad injury so he came on the season later, his first couple of games I was thinking, ‘Wow, amazing’.

“Then he made a mistake in one of his earlier games where he gave the ball away. I was thinking, ‘Okay, is he still too young? Is he ready? Is he a bit naive?’

“But he carried on doing the same things, getting on the ball in areas where a lot of midfielders will shy away from it. He’s so elegant on the ball, he can drop his shoulder, he can drive forward, and he’s just so calm. He’s playing like he’s a 35-year-old veteran of the game! And he’s so young. He’s just been a real key part to that spark that England needed, not just in midfield but the team needed in terms of adding the different dynamic.”

Lineker compared his impact to that of brilliant Spain teenager Lamine Yamal, who Mainoo will face in Sunday’s final.

“He’s incredible. We talked about Lamine Yamal and obviously he’s unbelievably talented but in a different sort of way, Mainoo is incredibly impressive and another teenager. It’s kind of a tournament of emerging stars, which is something that you want to see.

“Obviously we know he can cope with a cup final. He played against Manchester City and scored that goal and performed brilliantly. I think he won the man of the match in that final. Nothing seems to faze him. Fearlessness of youth, I guess.”

Richards added: “Also just believing in his own quality. You hear him in his interviews, he doesn’t get too excited. He’s just calm. His interviews are just like how he is on the pitch: calm, composed, but that little bit of confidence as well. It is really great to see and long may it continue.”

Mainoo discussed his own rise, saying: “It’s an indescribable feeling. It’s happened quickly, but I’ve just been taking it day by day, game by game, and yes now we’re in the European Championship final.

“We’re all buzzing, it’s been such a journey to get here. I feel like we’ve built on our performances that we’ve had leading to this point and I feel like the only way is up, time to put ourselves into history.

“I feel like in the first half it was clicking with the whole team, everyone was getting on the ball. Me, Phil, Dec, Jude, I feel like we had the game under control in middle of the park and feel like the second half we had to grind out.

“It was very tough but the whole squad was a help. I mean, the impact off the bench from Cole and Ollie. I mean, what a finish, what a way to end it.”

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