Over the years, the footballing world have seen players with huge potentials and remarkable talents. Most of these talents excelled in the game and are recognised by the football governing body – FIFA, as great players. You think of players with huge talents and names like Johan Cryuff, Frans Berckenbeur, Pele, Diego Maradonna, Di Stefano, Bryan Robson, Bobby Charlton, Alan Shearer, Kenny Dalglish, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Raul, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos just to mention a few, comes to mind. These players, although talented, worked very hard to build their potentials to the maximum level. They were allowed to mature in the game with no pressure whatsoever. They meticulously, with the help and guidance of coaches, climbed the ladder of greatness in football. When we sit to talk about great players this game have known, we see if not all, most of the names above mentioned.
Are our up and coming talents in the game working hard as these past players did?
Will the young talents of today be able to excel and even surpass the great things these old players did?
These are few of the many questions on the lips of many football fans when the discussion of the future of our game comes to the table. We see players not living up to expectation or to their potentials.
What is the problem? Should we blame our coaches? the media? Clubs? or the players themselves?
One will argue these young talents of today have what the past players never had. Football has evolved. It is now an investment option for many people. Meaning there are more opportunities and facilities available for players to develop themselves now than there was before.
Most football fans didn’t have the glorious opportunity to see some of these past players in action. Luckily enough, the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Seedorf, Del Piero, Trezeguet, Pablo Maldini, Cafu, Jaap Stam, Inzaghi and others were seen by most. Talent and technique displayed anytime we watched them play. They players dominated the game throughout their time. They were game changers and decided results of games with their technical abilities, experience and huge talents.
What do we see today?
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have placed themselves at a pedestal with some amazing performances week in, week out. Aside them, we have some outstanding players in the scene. But, do we see our young players replacing these players when they are retired? The days when players were given the room to work hard and mature seem to be over. We now want players to live in the shadows of past players. These past players also established their names with their hardwork and achievements. Over involvement of the media in football has really helped the progress and evolution of the game but it looks like it’s now harming the development of our young players.
The media now hype players which cause hike in transfer fees. Young players are purchased with huge monies and end up crashing under the pressure of big expectations from fans due to the price they joined the club for.
Emerging talents are now given what I term “accolades” before they earn them. The very popular term the media have resorted to in our days is ‘the new’.
As soon as a player exhibits wonderful performance in a game, he is tagged with the name of a former player who excelled in same position or had the qualities which the young player is displaying. It is rather sad that these young lads get ahead of themselves thinking they have already hit stardom, meanwhile, in reality, they are only starting. The desire to work hard is no more. The passion for the game is no more.
They now want to enjoy the fame at that tender age with the help of the media. Young chaps now seek quick money over the ‘longevity’ of a successful career. Imagine what would be in our talking points about former players if they had suffered the same fate, during their development, as these young players.
After an impressive U-20 FIFA World Cup Tournament in Turkey, the Portuguese starlet Bruma, was nicknamed “the new Cristiano Ronaldo”. He put up impressive performance in that tournament scoring 5 goals in 4 matches. After the tournament, one would have thought Bruma would continue his development with his team at the time, Sporting Lisbon. But would a “new Cristiano Ronaldo” stay with Lisbon? He joined Turkish giants Galatasaray in a shock move and that was Bruma’s end, in my honest opinion.
One would think an 18 year old at the time would join Ajax to continue his development if he were to leave Lisbon. He thought he was ready to hit stardom which he wasn’t prepared for. Bruma is now on loan with Spanish side Real Sociedad.
A hugely talented Martin Ode gaard, nicknamed “Norwegian Messi”, who will be 17years coming december, joined Real Madrid in January this year in a move which shocked the football world. Madrid is a fantastic club but will he get the chance to develop as he ought to? That, I leave you to answer.
Another young player you can think of is Allen Halilovic the “Croatian Messi”,19 years who joined Barcelona in March 2014, is yet to get a first team football at Barcelona. Halilovic is now on loan at Sporting Gijon.
Lucas Silva, the “new Kaka” as he is called, joined Madrid at the tender age of 21years and expected first team football.
These young players are hyped and pressured, and most of them also respond by getting ahead of themselves and the end result is nothing to write home about.
Most clubs have forsaken their traditions. Barcelona, Ajax, Manchester United and others, were known to nurture players, harness their talents and watch them become the best they could be.
Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Seedorf among others, all rose through the ranks in their various clubs to stardom.
Today, due to the evolution of the game and the pressure on managers to ‘succeed or get sacked’, young players don’t get the chance to mature or even the opportunity to prove what they’ve got in them. The few who get the opportunity and impress are also hyped and the fame gets clouds them, bringing them back to square one. Clubs spend huge monies on transfers which hinder the progress of the youth system at the clubs.
Managers are also not bold enough to hand debuts to young players due to the pressure from fans and directors should they lose a game. Collectively; fans, directors at clubs, media, investors, managers etc. are not helping build the future of our game.
We will have players who will excel regardless, but the danger of being prone to having many ‘casualties’ due to our handling of young talents still stare at us in the face.
By: Simon Boateng (Kaybee)