When the name Gedion Zelalem was first linked with a move to Ibrox, few fans in Ibrox will of been overly familiar with the Arsenal youngster. A quick google search later and you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of him.
Zelalem is Widely regarded down south as a future star and will now have the chance to light up the Scottish Championship in orer to prove he can handle the pressure of performing for a large club in front of large crowds.
World Cup and Champions League winner Thiery Henry regards him as a ‘quality player’:
“Everybody knows him, He is quality. Good on the ball, great vision. Everyone is talking about him. It is not easy to break into the first team at Arsenal but certainly he has the quality and the right boss to make sure that he can do it. Hopefully for us as Arsenal fans he can perform and become a great player.
Arsne Wenger is also full of praise for his young prodigy. Speaking last July, the Arsenal boss – renowned for developing young players, said:
“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.”
So who is Mark Warburton’s latest recruit and what will he bring to the squad?
His footballing career began in Berlin with Hertha – the city where he was born, but soon followed his family to the United States in 2006, playing Olney Rangers (conveniently). It is here where he caught the eye of Arsenal before moving to London aged 16. Making his first team debut against Coventry, Gedion became the first player born after Wenger joined Arsenal to play for the club.
At only 16, Zelalem’s hype grew around North London with a series of eye catching performances during Arsenal’s Asia tour – excellent vision and precision passing being particular features of his play. Followers of youth football sown south will tell you that the decision to not re-sign Cesc Fabregas was taken with an eye on Zelalem’s progression. He is compared with both Fabregas and Jack Wilshire who also made his debut aged 16.
Wilshire wasn’t shy in praising Zelalem and is quoted as saying:
“He sees passes that not a lot of players can’. ‘You think “what’s he doing?” and suddenly someone is in. He is only 16 and he is an exciting player.” It won’t be long before he is ready. “He’s so comfortable on the ball, even in training he’s a nightmare to play against. He keeps the ball away from you and shields it. He’s not very big but he is strong. He drifts in and out of players. He’s quite a strong lad and technically he’s right up there. He’s a good one for the future.”
Zelalem is of Ethiopian decent but was engulfed in a tug of war between the USA and German authorities to get the youngster to commit to their nation. He eventually choose the former and manager Jurgen Klinsmann was delighted with the 18-year-old’s decision.
“I think he’s already at a level that he can definitely play on the senior team,” Klinsmann said in March this year. “He’s a special player.
It comes as a surprise that Zelalem has ended up in the Scottish Championship with him being that highly rated and emphasizes the trust Warburton commands from the major players in England. There’s not many places where would Zelalem could play stylish football in front of 50’000 every second week?
The players most comfortable in central midfield but would be able to operate in Rangers front three with his quick feet. He is regarded as a player who likes to have the ball and will show maturity on the ball – unusual for a player so young.
One thing is for sure, no matter what Zelalem experiences in his career – he’ll never forget the next 12 months.