Five Premier League teenagers emulating club heroes

Date published: Wednesday 5th February 2020 12:17

Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all have teenagers copying club heroes.


Curtis Jones as Steven Gerrard at Liverpool
There are, stylistically, more relevant comparisons to make between Curtis Jones and his Liverpool predecessors. The 19-year-old is a hybrid of Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, with his positional discipline, technical skill, admirable selflessness, deftness of touch, tenacious press and ability to operate in tight spaces making for a potent midfield combination.

But symbolically, Jones as the new Gerrard is an irresistible connection. As a born leader and Liverpool academy product, it is an association he should embrace, sharing a delicious responsibility with Trent Alexander-Arnold as a local hero at a time of supreme dominance. If so, Jurgen Klopp is well on his way to achieving one of his first Liverpool targets.


Gabriel Martinelli as Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal
As problematic as the description of Sanchez as an Arsenal ‘hero’ will be for some, the Chilean is yet to be adequately replaced in north London. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been a fine substitute for his goal threat but the Gunners still lack Sanchez’s immeasurables more than two years after his departure.

The aggression in attack, the energy, the warrior mentality, the belligerence, drive and determination. Such traits cannot be reflected on spreadsheets, nor coached into being. They are natural, instinctive, innate.

Sanchez had it. Martinelli has it. It might seem a little crude to draw such an unquantifiable link between two South Americans – he is a little original Ronaldo, too – but it would be no surprise to see the 18-year-old pulling up his shorts while letting out a primal scream of frustration at the inability of his teammates to keep up with his relentless brilliance.


Mason Greenwood as Robin van Persie at Manchester United
Take it not from this idiot, but the man himself.

“I think he will be very good because during every game he tries to copy me,” Van Persie said in December. “My style, my technique, my left foot, my way of finishing…so, I’m sure he will end up well.”

The proof really is in the delightfully emphatic pudding. When the manager himself has openly acknowledged the similarities, there is clearly something there. Greenwood, 11 when Van Persie was firing Manchester United to their most recent Premier League title, hardly has a wealth of other United role models to copy.


Phil Foden as David Silva at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has built a rod for his own back. To refer to Foden as “the most, most, most talented player I have ever seen in my career as a manager” was to provide ammunition for dissenters when public actions spoke far quieter than effusive words.

His management of Manchester City’s most promising academy product has been otherwise impeccable and entirely in keeping with historic precedent. Foden has already featured more regularly under Guardiola than Sergio Busquets and Thiago Alcantara at his age, with his interrupted ascension to the throne delayed for a reason.

Silva’s planned departure this summer will leave a space that City have long been preparing to advertise internally and to just one candidate. “We are not going to buy any player in his position because we have Phil,” said Guardiola last month, with Silva himself describing Foden as “a good replacement for me” last summer. His patience will surely pay off.


Billy Gilmour as Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea
The instinct is to liken any young Chelsea midfielder to their current manager, to accentuate similarities in terms of goalscoring, incredible timing or peak physical and mental attributes in search of something with a greater meaning.

But Frank Lampard himself will know one of Chelsea’s most promising youngsters echoes a more recent first-team stalwart. “I thought Gilmour ran the game from midfield,” said the manager of the teenager’s performance in a win over Grimsby in September. “I absolutely trust him. He came on, passed it, moved it, simple passes through the lines,” he said after another impressive cup display.

Gilmour will be happy that his ability on the ball is receiving particular managerial recognition. For a player who noted back in summer 2018 that “I love watching Fabregas play” and “that’s who I want to match” – and whose time has been spent studying clips of the Spaniard – he is in a fine position to develop.


Matt Stead


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