LONDON – From Ryan Giggs to Harry Kane via Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Premier League has proved a breeding ground for some of European football’s biggest stars.
Ahead of the start of the 2015-16 season this weekend, AFP Sports selects five teenage players seeking to grab a share of the limelight.
Brendan Galloway (19, Everton)
Everton supporters got their first glimpse of Galloway at the back end of last season when he started their final two league matches. Born in Zimbabwe, he moved to England at the age of six and joined Everton in 2014 following a spell with Milton Keynes Dons, for whom he made his debut aged just 15. It is thought that Everton manager Roberto Martinez intends to ease him into senior football at left-back, but should John Stones depart, Galloway may be given an opportunity to stake a claim for a first-team place at centre-back.
Joe Gomez (18, Liverpool)
Gomez only joined Liverpool in June, arriving from Charlton Athletic in a £3.5 million ($5.5 million, 5 million euros) deal, but British newspaper reports claim he could feature in the starting XI when Brendan Rodgers takes his team to Stoke City on Sunday after impressing his coaches in pre-season. The England Under-19 international has predominantly played at right-back and centre-back in his career to date, but he has turned out at left-back in Liverpool’s warm-up games. “Ideally, centre-back is my main position, but I’m happy to play right-back or left-back if the manager believes I can help the team there,” Gomez told local newspaper the Liverpool Echo.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (19, Chelsea)
A tall, elegant central midfielder, Loftus-Cheek was a driving force last season as Chelsea claimed success in the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League. He was also granted a handful of first-team appearances, coming off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Manchester City in January and starting against Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion in May. He was publicly rebuked by Jose Mourinho for a careless display in a post-season friendly against Sydney FC, but that only suggested that the Chelsea manager has bigger plans for him this season. “I listened to what the manager said,” Loftus-Cheek said. “I wasn’t at the level I need to be and I need to do better if I want to play for Chelsea.”
Andreas Pereira (19, Manchester United)
A Belgium-born Brazilian youth international, Pereira joined United from PSV Eindhoven in 2011 and could be set for a breakthrough season after impressing during the club’s pre-season tour of the United States. Competition for midfield places is fiercer than ever at Old Trafford, but manager Louis van Gaal’s record of promoting young players suggests Pereira may get chances to impress. Pereira made two first-team appearances last season and signed a new three-year contract in May. “Andreas has all the attributes to become an integral part of the first team: great natural talent, coupled with a good appetite to learn,” said Van Gaal.
Jeff Reine-Adelaide (17, Arsenal)
The Emirates Cup pre-season friendly tournament tends to offer Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger a chance to blood promising players from the club’s youth set-up and this year it was the turn of French attacking midfielder Reine-Adelaide to thrill the fans at the Emirates Stadium. After a cameo in a 6-0 win over Lyon, he started the decisive game against Wolfsburg and created the only goal of the match with a forward dart followed by a measured through ball for Theo Walcott. Wenger has described the former Lens player as “something special” and ruled out sending him out on loan in order to keep close tabs on his development.