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Opinion: It’s Harder Than Ever For Young Players To Fulfill Their Potential In Football

Many supporters will agree that modern day football is out of control in several ways with the ever increasing money involved, the celebrity lifestyle of the players as well as the constant intense media scrutiny. These factors also play a huge part in why football is the world’s most popular sport but there are clear negative knock on effects that can be ignored. One such effect is how the modern game shapes the attitudes of talented young stars.

Football is an ever changing game both on and off the pitch. As well as being a sport, it is now a huge money spinning industry and the commercial side of the game is being exploited to the maximum by various companies and sponsors. The role Adidas played in promoting the recent world record transfer of Paul Pogba to Manchester United is evidence of this.

Transfer fees surrounding the world’s brightest young talent continue to sky rocket with Anthony Martial and John Stones being prime examples. Inevitably the wages of these young players will also keep rising in tandem with the transfer fees. Sixteen-year-old Martin Odegaard’s move to Real Madrid last January has earned him a staggering £80,000 a week. That is a ludicrous amount of money for a teenager that has made it almost impossible to be considered a success.

during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Manchester United FC and VfL Wolfsburg at Old Trafford on September 30, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Odegaard only made 15 starts for Stromsgodset when Real Madrid forked out almost £4 million for the Norwegian wonder kid. It is difficult to feel sorry for Odegaard for obvious reasons but he already faces an uphill struggle in which many young players have failed and disappeared into thin air.

It is now harder than ever for young players between 16 and 22 or even 23 years of age to succeed, cement a place in the team and develop their talent give the pressure involved with the hefty price tags placed on their heads. Odegaard has even been questioned as to why he has not broken into the Real Madrid first team yet by some, which is absolutely ridiculous, but many look at the price tag rather than the individual.

It is important to point out that these youngsters need a lot more than talent to achieve their potential. The right attitude, discipline and work rate are fundamental necessities. There are far too many distractions that take young players’ eye off the ball including money, social media and the influence of agents whispering in their ears. Some young players are mentally stronger than others but football is a ruthless sport. One minute you are the next big thing and the next you are cast out in the cold. Just ask Freddy Adu.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Martin Odegaard of Real Madrid Castilla celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal during the Segunda Division B match between Real Madrid Castilla v Barakaldo CF at estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on February 21, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

It is a serious problem in football and especially at a time where there is a clear drop in the general standard of the game. There are clearly exceptions with the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar but perhaps the drop in quality is down to the lack of really talented young players coming through (overrated young players yet to prove themselves not included). The 2014 World Cup and 2016 Euros were alarmingly short on quality compared to previous international tournaments. It is here, on this stage, where you can primarily judge the standard of football across the world and at the moment it is as low as it has been for quite a time.

This is a make or break season for many young players who are on the fringes between making an impact at their clubs or being shipped out. Raheem Sterling at Manchester City and Memphis Depay at Manchester United are two examples in particular that stand out. They are players with an abundance of talent but whose attitudes can be questioned and who often get involved in controversy. That can be seen on the pitch where they seem distracted and continue to fail to produce an end product. At their age and with the talent they possess, you would expect them to be producing more and you can not help but feel they are not putting enough work into their own game. This season could be the last chance saloon for both men and many players are finding themselves in a similar position. The majority fail to make that jump from young star with potential to world superstar.

Adnan Januzaj is another player that appears to be falling off the radar despite his obvious talent. Januzaj burst on to the scene during David Moyes’ forgettable time at the helm of Manchester United in the 2013/2014 season with two goals at the Stadium of Light. The Belgian was the only bright spark of what was a miserable campaign at Old Trafford and he received rave reviews for some of his performances with both the U21 side and in the first team.

He was highly rated within the United academy and many saw him as being a huge part of the future success of the club. Januzaj earned a call up to the extremely talented Belgium international team, Ryan Giggs’ famous no. 11 shirt and a new five-year contract which brought his salary from £1,000 a week to £30,000. As talented as Januzaj is though, it all seemed too much, too soon for the then 18-year-old. Unfortunately, this has since proven to be the case.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Manager Louis van Gaal of Manchester United speaks with Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United after the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on February 28, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Louis van Gaal replaced Moyes, and Januzaj did not receive as many first team appearances as expected; he also failed to make an impact with Belgium. He started to be accused of having a lazy attitude and displaying arrogance by showboating in U21 games. United U21 manager Warren Joyce dropped him at one stage and this is why it is believed he was dropped from the Belgian squad. The money and hype was going to the player’s head.

Januzaj was loaned out to Borussia Dortmund at the start of the 2014/2015 season where he failed to make a single appearance and was sent back to United’s U21s with his tail between his legs. José Mourinho shares the opinion that Januzaj is not ready for the United first team and in pre-season he demoted the youngster permanently to the U21 dressing room. Januzaj seemingly saw this as an insult and refused to change with the reserves; instead, he arrived to training already kitted out.

Januzaj demanded a permanent transfer away from the club but United only sanctioned a loan move to his old manager Moyes at Sunderland as the club feared another Paul Pogba situation. However, Januzaj is very unlikely to be a Paul Pogba. He looks destined to go down the route of many other young players and to be yet another Ravel Morrison, barring a dramatic turn of events.

While this can be interpertated as a very negative viewpoint, the new Premier League season is almost underway and let’s hope the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Dele Alli and Kelechi Iheanacho can build on promising debut seasons and continue to flourish.

Vincent O’Shea, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.