Former MLS boss Steve Nicol believes the US national team head coach should think twice before introducing the teenager straight into the senior squad.
One of Arsenal’s top prospects, Zelalem has been exciting American fans ever since he first surfaced as a potential option for the US, and is now in the process of acquiring a waiver that could allow him to represent Klinsmann’s side as soon as April.
Aged just 18, the Berlin-born starlet emigrated to the States in 2006 with his father and, while Germany remain keen on his services, Klinsmann is already planning to welcome him into the senior setup.
Despite making just two first-team cameos for the Gunners over the past 14 months, the former Spurs striker believes he would have few problems making an immediate step up to international football, telling Goal.com: “[Zelalem] is a special case. He’s a special player. I think he’s already at a level that he can definitely play on the senior team.
"Definitely I would like to see him with me first. I want to kind of see how he interacts with the whole group and what level he’s in, and then for the next dates then totally open then to have him play with the U-23s or with [U.S. Under-20 coach Tab Ramos].”
Those comments did not sit well with Nicol, however, who believes Klinsmann should not be handing a free pass to someone who is still to prove themselves at the first-team level.
Believing it sends the wrong message to fellow US hopefuls, the ex-New England Revolution boss said: “I find it strange where Jurgen would come out and put himself in a position where he has no choice but to do that [call him up].
“At the same time, we’re talking about a player who’s playing for the reserves. There have been a lot of ‘very special’ players who’ve been playing reserve team football.
“I’ve played with some of them and they never see the light of day
“I’m not saying this is going to happen to him. He’s obviously got quality, but I think any international manager has to have players who have experience of pressure. Reserve football doesn’t do that.”