Back in April 2006, a fleet-footed, left-sided player was unleashed to wreak havoc in the Football League.
Some 12 years on and the heir apparent to one Gareth Bale may have been found on the books at Fulham.
Ryan Sessegnon is already drawing comparisons to a man who once demanded a €100 million transfer fee, and he is just 17 years old!
Who is Ryan Sessegnon?
Born on May 18, 2000, Sessegnon is a south west London native who has gone on to make a name for himself in that particular part of the world.
Snapped up by Fulham at the age of eight, it would take a remarkable talent just another eight years to manoeuvre himself through the ranks and into the first-team fold – making his debut aged 16 years and 81 days in August 2016.
There has been no stopping him from that point, with a first senior goal recorded within 11 days of making his bow – making him the first player born in the 2000s to register an effort for an English professional side and the youngest ever to find the target in the Championship.
By the end of the 2016-17 season, Sessegnon was already being talked about as one of the top teenage talents in world football, with Cottagers colleague Neeskens Kebano describing him as “the future of English football” and Stefan Johansen saying it is “99 per cent certain he will be one of the top left-backs in the world”.
Who wants him?
Unsurprisingly, Sessegnon’s potential has not remained under the radar for long and leading sides across Europe are now monitoring his development.
Manchester United, who have struggled down their left-hand side in recent years, are among those to be mulling over a big-money approach for an exciting talent already being valued at around £40m.
Premier League leaders Manchester City are also in the mix, while it comes as no surprise to find that Arsenal – a club with a penchant for cherry-picking young talent – are keeping a close eye on a player on their London doorstep.
Tottenham, who enjoyed so much success with a gamble on Bale in the past, are also keen, with former Fulham boss Leroy Rosenior suggesting to the Totally Football Show that they may already have a deal done, despite Goal having revealed in August 2017 that a £25m bid from Spurs had been knocked back.
Rosenior said: “I think that a deal has been done for Ryan as teams have been in for him. It’s a Premier League side with strong rumours of Tottenham. I wouldn’t be surprised if other sides have been in for him as well. He’s staying at Fulham before moving in the summer. His future is already mapped out. Ryan has great potential. He is one of those players who you think he’s not a left-back and not a left-winger. He could be an amazing player.”
Why do they want him?
Where do you start with a player who has achieved so much in such a short space of time?
Despite often being deployed on the left side of defence, Sessegnon has been shifted up the field onto the flanks after displaying an extremely useful eye for goal.
He already has 21 senior efforts to his name, with 14 of those coming in the 2017-18 campaign.
No English player can claim to have bettered his haul of nine league goals since the turn of the year, and his conversion rate places him above and beyond the very best finishers in the business.
Boasting pace to burn, a handy bag of tricks, a penchant for sniffing out chances and a sensible head on young shoulders, the world would appear to be Sessegnon’s oyster.
Interested parties would be advised to move early as a result, with the exciting teenager having recently scooped the Young Player of the Year prize at the London Football Awards and the EFL Player of the Year gong to add a few more pounds to his price tag.
What does the future hold?
Big things, that’s for sure.
It could be that the summer of 2018 provides the springboard for what is to come, with transfer talk building and Sessegnon being billed as a potential shock inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad heading to the World Cup finals – a la 17-year-old Theo Walcott in 2006.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic believes he is ready for that step up and calls from an excited fan base for a punt to be taken on the untested youngster are growing by the day.
If Sessegnon is to get the nod, then he can be expected to take everything in his stride, with his skills having been honed in the uncompromising surrounds of cage football.
He told The Telegraph recently: “There’s a lot of cages and five-a-side places in London. You see young people showing off their talents. First touch is important. That’s where you learn it, on the street.”
That street-smarts, like Wayne Rooney before him, could carry Sessegnon to the very top, with the ambitious performer prepared to admit that Premier League football will form part of his future.
He has said: “I think for any young player playing outside the Premier League, the dream is to be in the Premier League. I’m no different to any other player, I just want to play at the highest possible level.”
And on following in Bale’s footsteps, Sessegnon added: “People compare me to him and it’s great to be compared to someone like him. I’m happy to be myself and keep pushing forward.”
A wise choice, as Sessegnon is already well on his way to shaking the ‘next’ tag and becoming a superstar in his own right.