U.S. men's national team target Gedion Zelalem isn't cracking Arsenal's first-team just yet, but his latest exploits for Arsenal's U-19s might grab the attention of Arsene Wenger.
Playing in the UEFA Youth League – a U-19 competition along the lines of the Champions League – Zelalem scored a wondrous goal as part of Arsenal's 5-1 win over Galatasaray on Wednesday. Zelalem, a stated target of Jurgen Klinsmann who maintains German and Ethiopian national team eligibility and would not be U.S.-eligible until he becomes a U.S. citizen (which could happen if his father obtains citizenship prior to Gedion turning 18 this coming January), juked a defender in the box with another hot on his trail before roofing a right-footed effort that opened the scoring in the 45th minute.
Zelalem, 17, has one first-team appearance to his name with Arsenal, in last season's FA Cup, and is unlikely to make a dent with the senior Gunners anytime soon, but his potential has made him one of the more hot-button multi-national prospects. His 45-minute stint for Arsenal against the New York Red Bulls in a summer friendly drew plenty of attention, though he played down his own hype amid his first pro appearance on U.S. soil.
That said, his goal Wednesday is unlikely to quiet any of the excitement around his future, even if his prime is still years away.
As Wenger told SI.com in an exclusive Q&A this summer: "He is a player with a good eye and good technique and is very agile. He has the ambition to find the ball on the field. So he's the kind of player who could be of use to the United States. He's in some ways the type of player the U.S. was missing in the World Cup.
"He is potentially an international player, for sure. But the next two or three years he will have to show he has the mental qualities to fill that potential. That's what's at stake for him now. If he grows physically, since he's slim, and continues to develop his mentality, the potential is there for him to be a top professional player."