Gedion Zelalem is an incredibly popular name in United States soccer circles, a player probably more talked about by fans of the USMNT than he is by supporters of the team he plays for, Arsenal.
And it seems that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger knows just how much Zelalem can potentially mean to US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the Stars and Stripes. Speaking ahead of his sides pre-season friendly against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, Wenger noted how much the States need a player like the 17-year old Zelalem in their side.
Important to the States
"Gedion has the qualities that I believe are very important to give in the States because the national team I've seen [is missing them]," Wenger told reporters at Red Bull Arena on Thursday.
"He's a creative player and he can create a spark, an opening with his pass, with his vision through the eyes and if he manages to build up his physique and his qualities, he can be a very important player. Let's hope he will do it."
Whilst Zelalem is currently lacking in professional experience, it hasn't deterred Klinsmann from making a big push to try and convince the German-born midfielder to declare for the nation that he spent his formative years in.
Wenger believes that National Team call-ups are still a way off but believes Zelalem can ultimately live up to his immense potential.
"I honestly think he has the talent to become a quality player, but that will be decided in the next two, three years because he has to show that he has the mental level required to be a top player, competitor," said Wenger. "Today, it's too early for him to play for us, but I would say in one year we will know more about him. Maybe if it all goes well in six months, but just now, he's not completely ready to start in the Premier League.
Arsenal spotted the talented youngster whilst he was playing for youth side Olney Rangers. Former Arsenal player and current North American scout Danny Karbassiyoon lays claim to the find after seeing Zelalem star at the Dallas Cup, an international youth tournament attended by many big name teams of which River Plate are the current holders of the title.
Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, Zelalem is not currently eligible to play for the US. Zelalem’s father is reportedly in the process of finishing his US citizenship, which would make the young Zelalem eligible for the national team once completed, and crucially it would allow the midfielder to hold dual-citizenship, enabling him to continue playing for Arsenal in the EU without the need for a work permit.
It is still not confirmed if Zelalem will play for the States or Germany - for whom he has represented already at Under-17 level - but Wenger's comments will certainly come as a boost to US fans and their prospects to land the talented teenager.