It's the final day of the 2016-17 Premier League season. A total of 75,000 spectators inside a packed Old Trafford stadium have come to their feet as club's top scorer Wayne Rooney applauds the fans and comes off in the 88th minute against Crystal Palace. On the touchline, stands 16-year-old Angel Gomes, eagerly waiting to become the first player born in this century to make a Premier League appearance. It is a moment to be proud of despite falling just 78 days short of Duncan Edwards’s mark of 16 years and 185 days at the time of making his league debut for United. "There are times when I am sat at home and I'll just be drifting away when I think of the game and how everything happened so quickly. It feels great to say that I am the club's youngest Premier League player," Gomes told MUTV after the match.
There has to be something special about you to catch the eyeballs of the footballing fraternity and the 'Special One': Jose Mourinho. The 5'5 attacking midfielder has already demonstrated his class at a number of youth level tournaments and with a variety of weapons in his armoury, it will make you wonder – 'He is just 16!'
After a remarkable season, Gomes was handed the Jimmy Murphy Youth Team Player of the Year, where he became the first 16-year-old to achieve the feat in the award's 27-year history. Well, to be in the same bracket of previous winners as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes takes more than just special.
"It's ridiculous. I look at the kids and they're miles better than I was at their age — technically. We've got some unbelievable players. Angel Gomes is a young talented player we've massive hopes for," former United midfielder Nicky Butt, who has been heavily involved in United’s academy set-up, was quoted by saying The Express.
There is more to it. Gomes's qualities have not only caught the eye of top clubs but also former greats. After the skilful midfielder's much-talked-about senior debut, former Barcelona and Brazil star Ronaldinho sent him a video message where he congratulated the youngster. In the video, the 37-year-old said, "Hi Angel, Ronaldinho speaking, sending you good luck and a hug. All the best, I am following your progress and I wish you all the happiness in the world. Go for it. I will meet you soon."
A just stuff of dreams for any teenager. So, what do we know about him?
United have been one of the most successful youth academies in the world and when it comes to developing their own talent, they are second to none. Snapped by United as a 13 year old, Gomes pushed himself up the pecking order and went on to make his much-anticipated debut for the U-18s when he was just 14. Two years later, he came off the bench and blasted three past Everton to further show the fans an exciting glimpse of the future.
The wonderkid, a cousin of former United winger Luis Nani, has always been playing above his age group at the Manchester club. Many believed that Gomes was destined to play football since the day he was born. His father Gil, played for a host of clubs, including Benfica, Braga and Salford City. His brother Rico was also a part of United's youth team until under 16 level before being released by the club. Then comes Nani, who was a great servant for United, making 230 appearances for the Red Devils in seven years. So, the stage was set for him to pursue a career in football.
However, there were a few questions raised on Gomes's physique as often the 5'5 midfielder was floored by defenders. But, here's the interesting part. Despite being 5'5, he has been able to split open defences with quick feet and the exquisite drop of the shoulder skill. Gomes further responded to the critics in the most subtle way possible by posting a picture of arguably the best football player Lionel Messi, saying 'Too small to play, they said... the rest is history.' Impressive, no?
For someone who has been a keen admirer of skilful players like Ronaldinho, Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, one can expect the little box of energy to embarrass defenders time and again. The highly-rated London-born attacking midfielder can play as a classic No 10 and has proved his worth in front of the goal with 12 goals in 19 starts in the previous season for his club side. The teenager can operate on either flank and is often considered as a central figure of his club and England's attack. Notably, Gomes was on the scoresheet just after four minutes and provided a couple of assists in Young Lions' crushing 8-1 victory over Germany at the 2016 Croatia Cup.
He has proven himself to be a leader in multiple age groups at the international level, wearing the captain’s armband for England's U-16s and U-17s. However, after missing England's march to the final of this year's European U-17 Championship due to injury, Gomes will be eager to make amends for it by playing an instrumental role alongside familiar faces at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
Come October, Gomes will be representing a strong Young Lions side. Steve Cooper's England have been drawn in a tough group alongside CONCACAF champions Mexico, Asian champions Iraq, and Chile, who finished second in the South American U-17 Championships. But, the recent results are proof that the team has enough firepower to cope with the pressure. Also, with a well-drilled outfit, which finished second in the UEFA U-17 Championship after losing the final against Spain via a penalty shootout, Cooper's men could draw inspiration from the U-20 triumph earlier this year and there is a possibility of Gomes being the star attraction for the Young Lions.
Over to you, Gomes.
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Updated Date: Sep 29, 2017 09:39:56 IST