“Injuries haunt the 24-year-old”
1NEWS – Gedion Zelalem was spotted by Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon, who was the first American to score for the Gunners. But he had to retire very early at the age of 22 due to injury.
Karbassiyoon told Goal in 2016, “Gedion was 13 years old when I was told about him. I get a lot of emails about this player with messages saying, ‘Come and see this kid, he’s the next Ronaldo, the next Neymar, he’s nine years old, he’s left footed, he’s amazing.’”
Special thanks to our guest @ school today. NHS Grad, Former Arsenal Player, & Current Arsenal Scouts. Daniel Karbassiyoon pic.twitter.com/N9i8aJ5zAW
— Vikings FC (@NHSVikingsFC) April 28, 2017
“I went to see him in a very cold January in Washington, with parents probably wondering why some men watch their child train alone.
“After about 10 minutes I thought that ‘this kid is very good.’ He demonstrated technical ability, awareness, and intelligence that I had never seen in an American child until then.”
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Born in Germany, Zelalem has played at various age levels for the German national team and he himself studied at the Hertha Berlin academy. Later he also played in American clubs before joining Arsenal in 2013 after being spotted in the prestigious youth tournament, the Dallas Cup.
ZELALEM WITH THE EQUALISER! ️@XavierAmaechi delivers a dangerous ball into the box and Zelalem is there to finish from close range
— Arsenal Academy (@ArsenalAcademy) January 7, 2019
Zelalem is considered a star and has extraordinary abilities, but as he told the MLS website in August 2019, “Football is not as simple as you think growing up. There are many ups and downs, there are wounds. I have learned a lot.”
Known for his vision of play, technical quality and passing skills, Zelalem was often compared to Cesc Fabregas as a youth and moved straight from the Under-16s to the Under-21s and was included in the squad for the Asia tour in July 2013.
He recalled training with the first team for the first time, “It was real. I saw Arsene Wenger, I was blown away. I can’t believe my eyes. I thought I was in a movie. ”
However Zelalem has never played a senior game for the Gunners. He was included on the bench for the Premier League game against Fulham in August 2013, but was then sidelined through injury for two months.
To gain experience, Zelalem was loaned out for a season at Rangers in the 2015/2016 season, playing a key role in their promotion back to the Scottish top flight after they dropped to the fourth tier due to financial problems.
He was later linked with Borussia Dortmund but still chose to fight for a place in the Arsenal first team.
During his struggle at the Emirates, an international battle was being waged for Zelalem’s allegiance. He played for Germany at international level up to Under-17 level before moving to the US when his father moved to Washington DC following the death of his mother.
“Gedion is the most technical player I’ve ever had in the youth national team,” said former US Under-20 manager Tab Ramos.
“He’s very easy on the ball, can get out of trouble. I saw a class player at the time, he was really special and different from anyone we’ve ever had.”
Zelalem finally declared to defend the US and get 10 caps at U-20 level. But has not appeared in full in the USMNT (American senior team) due to injury problems.
His time at Arsenal was severely disrupted by injuries. The most severe blow came at the end of the 2016/2017 season when he ruptured knee ligaments while playing for the USA in the Under-20 World Cup and ruled him out for 18 months.
Reports: USA, Arsenal prospect Gedion Zelalem tore his ACL at the U-20 World Cup https://t.co/gkw3ZdEsGYpic.twitter.com/K04NDG4p9p
— Planet Football (@si_soccer) May 24, 2017
His eligibility for the US came after he became a naturalized citizen. It was widely celebrated by fans online, and the tournament was supposed to be a showcase of his talents to the world of football. But the moment turned into another nightmare as he picked up an injury after 34 minutes of a 3-3 draw with Ecuador.
“He showed glimpses of the potential he had last year before picking up a knee injury, and we’re delighted to see him back on the pitch in 2021.”
When it comes to Zelalem and his failure to break through to the first team at Arsenal, it’s worth looking back at Karbassiyoon’s assessment of the player in 2016, “His best talent is his ability to take passes, he has incredible vision, he’s very aware of that. “
“It’s the little things you see some of the top midfielders in the world do. To do it at that level, you need to have the full package and do other things, or do one thing so well that no one else can stop it.”
“He does have a lot of great abilities that could show that he has the potential to be a great player.”
We pray that Zelalem is back fit and playing to live up to some of those high expectations.