Arsene Wenger has blooded countless academy stars in his two decades in charge of Arsenal. But Chris Willock was not willing to wait around for the odd run out in the Carabao Cup.
According to The Sun, the 19-year-old forward, who was one of the most highly-rated youngsters in The Gunners’ ranks, had no interest in committing his future to Arsenal this summer due to concerns that he would not be given a chance to prove himself in the first team.
So, when his contract expired on 1st July, Willock wasted no time in signing a five-year deal with Benfica instead.
Though, rather ironically, he’s had to be patient in Portugal. Willock has not made his league debut yet and, according to The Mirror (live transfer blog, 11.14am), could be loaned out in January with Leeds United among the clubs keen to give him a chance.
And while Leeds fans may be sceptical towards links with an unproven teenager who hasn’t even made a single senior league appearance in his career, comments from Wenger back in 2016 provide an insight into the England Under-20 starlet’s vast potential.
"Chris is a very gifted player with natural strength and natural talent. He has what you do not find very easily,” the veteran coach said in quotes reported by Eurosport.
"He can have a go at people, can get past people in one on ones. We forget sometimes that the basis of team sport is to first be strong one against one and Chris has that quality.
"I would be very comfortable to play him now.”
It remains to be seen what kind of an impact Willock could have at Elland Road. But blessed with natural skill, pace and the ability to produce something out of nothing, a short-term loan deal represents a low-risk signing that could reap spectacular rewards.