With Serge Gnabry conquering the continent at Bayern Munich and slaloming his way into the European elite, we have reached the stage where almost every since fresh-faced slarlet who slips through Arsenal’s fingers is compared to their Champions League-winning ‘one that got away’.
And there is certainly shades of Serge in the way Yunus Musah has exploded on to the scene on the Castellon coast.
According to Football London, the New-York born England youth star opted to walk away from north London in 2019, swapping Arsenal for Valencia.
At the time, Arsenal were putting the finishing touches on a club-record £72 million deal to bring Nicolas Pepe to the Emirates. So it is no wonder Musah’s departure slipped under the radar.
But, one year on, their failure to tie down this electrifying 17-year-old sensation is starting to look like a blunder of Gnabry-esque proportions.
Still just two months away from his 18th birthday, Musah made his La Liga debut in Valencia colours on Sunday. And what a debut it was.
Javi Gracia, Valencia’s eighth coach since owner Peter Lim took charge in 2014, could hardly believe what he was seeing from a youngster whose speed, skill and maturity drew gasps from a sparse Mestalla audience during the 4-2 opening day victory over local rivals Levante.
“Despite his youth, he has shown rare maturity. We need to value him and to take care of him so that he, in the future, continues to grow and contributes much more to Valencia,” the former Watford and Malaga coach said after the game.
In fact, Musah is already drawing comparisons with another talented teenager who snuck through the back door at a Premier League colossus before returning to England for a world-record fee – Manchester United’s Paul Pogba.
“This is a great kid; happy, outgoing, respectful, smiling all the time, infectious to be around, willing to learn… thoroughly likeable. But what I especially like about him is that he’s got a really good aggression on the pitch.,” Steve Cooper, the Swansea coach who handed Musah a call-up during his time in charge of England’s U17s, tells ESPN.
“Yunus stands out for his Pogba-like athleticism to power away from defenders. And if he receives possession in broken play in midfield, he drives away from opponents and leaves them behind.
“He has the technique of a real ‘football-playing’ midfielder but the athleticism and daring to make him a guy who’ll penetrate dangerous opposition areas because he’s also got great self-belief.”
The irony will not be lost on anyone.
Since Mikel Arteta was handed the reigns at Arsenal late last year, Pep Guardiola’s protégé has placed Arsenal’s most talented youngsters at the forefront of his rebuilding project.
Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Ainsley Maitland-Niles are now regulars in the starting XI.
If Musah had put pen to paper all those months ago, his superb technical abilities and box-to-box precision would have only enhanced the growing feeling that there is something special happening on the red half of north London.
Yet as Gnabry will tell you, with a Champions League winners’ medal hanging around his neck, the pathway to stardom does not stop at the gates of London Colney.
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