Skip to content

Arsenal hand first pro deal to former Maryland native Gedion Zelalem, extend Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla

Mar 19, 2014, 7:32 AM EDT

Zelalem Getty Images

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger loves continuity, so the news of two influential first team players and one of the club’s most promising youngsters, signing new deals probably came as no surprise to many.

Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla have both signed new long-term contracts at the Emirates Stadium, while former Maryland native Gedion Zelalem has signed a new deal with the Gunners.

Zelalem, just 17, lived in the U.S. during his formative years and the German born teenager, whose parents hail from Ethiopia, is fast becoming the hottest young property talked about in Premier League circles. He already made his professional debut against Coventry in the FA Cup earlier this season, and the former Bethesda Soccer Club star is eager to keep impressing at the Emirates.

He only joined Arsenal last January but Zelalem has already impressed Wenger enough to seal his first professional contract, and this is what Arsenal’s French manager had to say about the starlet, plus getting Ramsey and Cazorla to stay on board.

“We are very pleased that Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Gedion Zelalem have committed their futures to the club,” Wenger said. “Cazorla and Ramsey are absolutely key players for us, and this news is a boost to the whole club. Gedion is very young of course, but he has shown already that he has fantastic promise, and we all look forward to his development with us.”

U.S national team fans are getting excited about the possibility of Zelalem representing the USMNT one day. But as PST’s Richard Farley reported, the German youth international could tie himself to Germany if he plays in their U-17 qualifying opener on March 26 against Georgia. Only dual citizens, which Zelalem is not despite living in the Maryland area for over six years, can make a one-time switch to play for the U.S. at senior level.

That news aside, Wenger mentioned Zelalem has shown fantastic promise. What this contract gives Zelalem is the chance to have it nurtured at one of the best club’s for developing young talent in the PL, if not Europe. It might not be too long before we see him break into the first team, as the Gunners invest in three midfielders. Two for the present, one for the future.

  1. onelovesoccer7 - Mar 19, 2014 at 2:19 PM

    difficult situation. as reported in January, he not only identifies as an American, but he sounds like an American. that video of him in Miami last year for a anti-racism event just backs that up further.

    even if he were to become a US citizen, according to German law, he would essentially forfeit his German citizenship since it is a non-EU country. on top of that, he would then require a work permit. although there is an exception for “exceptional youth,” there is no precedent for a non-EU youth.

    despite him actually being developed and discovered in this country, it seems there are too many hurtles to overcome.

    • Sgc - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      Something about this makes me wonder–didn’t Danny Williams choose to play for the USA? And didn’t he play in England following this? Wasn’t it as an EU citizen?

      I know these laws are hazy, but it seemed like something just doesn’t click here.

      And one point of correction; there is, in fact, lots of precedent for a non-EU youth to get a work permit as an exceptional talent. He’d be the first *American* to get one, mind, but South American players have gotten them before. The mere fact that Arsenal have him signed would constitute powerful evidence of his eligibility. Maybe not determinative in and of itself, but you’re probably 60% of the way there.

      I honestly don’t think it’s an issue if you understand what the Labour Board work permit restrictions are actually there for, which is to allot slots to foreigners based upon talent rather than based upon wage.

      • bear06 - Mar 20, 2014 at 3:39 AM

        What? Danny Williams has an American parent unlike Zelalem.

      • onelovesoccer7 - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        Williams already held US citizenship, he is a dual national. different set of rules. and i should have been more clear. there has been no precedent set for an EU youth, like Zelalem, who then switched citizenship to a non-EU country, like the US, and retained his work permit.

        “The system is not designed to accommodate super-talented non-EU youngsters, rather established top internationals. Advice would have to be sought from the UK border agencies while lawyers would also become embroiled. There is no precedent for a Premier League player giving up his EU status and then having to explore the means to remain at his club. The situation would stand to be time-consuming and fraught with risk.”

      • onelovesoccer7 - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        “Zelalem has a claim for a US passport but, if he pursued it, he would not only lose his German citizenship but his EU rights, which could affect his ability to work in England. At the very least, he would have to apply for a work permit and that could lead him and Arsenal into choppy waters.”

  2. Sgc - Mar 19, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    Even as tough as it is to switch to the USA (being that he has no citizenship, and not living here, the only chance he gets it is if his father does), I would be kind of surprised if he cap tied himself now. That’s just because you look at what’s to be gained from playing with U-17s, and it doesn’t seem to offer that much over just staying with Arsenal. Why close any door for that?

  3. onelovesoccer7 - Mar 20, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Williams already held US citizenship, he is a dual national. different set of rules. and i should have been more clear. there has been no precedent set for an EU youth, like Zelalem, who then switched citizenship to a non-EU country, like the US, and retained his work permit:

    “But all things are not equal. According to Section 25 (i) of the German Nationality Act, German citizenship “shall be lost by a person acquiring a foreign citizenship upon his/her application. This does not affect persons acquiring the citizenship of an EU member state or Switzerland.”

    Zelalem has a claim for a US passport but, if he pursued it, he would not only lose his German citizenship but his EU rights, which could affect his ability to work in England. At the very least, he would have to apply for a work permit and that could lead him and Arsenal into choppy waters.

    The system is not designed to accommodate super-talented non-EU youngsters, rather established top internationals. Advice would have to be sought from the UK border agencies while lawyers would also become embroiled. There is no precedent for a Premier League player giving up his EU status and then having to explore the means to remain at his club. The situation would stand to be time-consuming and fraught with risk.”

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Week 3: Saturday Premier League recap