Skip to content

Out of Germany’s U-17 squad, Gedion Zelalem keeps his options open

Mar 27, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT

Arsenal v Galatasaray - Emirates Cup Getty Images

It was a complete 180. Two weeks ago, as so many hearts devoted to U.S. soccer broke at the thought of Gedion Zelalem slipping away, the reality of the Arsenal prospect seemed clear. Though the 17-year-old had spent much of his pre-Gunners days in the United States, his U-level international history told a story different story. Zelalem had never appeared for the U.S., wasn’t eligible to appear for the U.S., and, called up for Germany’s upcoming qualifying for the European U-17 championship, was about to slip away. Appear for Germany in that tournament, and Zelalem was cap-tied.

It’s part of the reason the big guns came out. Understandably, national team supporters have been excited about the possibility of Zelalem joining up, even if he still needs to get U.S. citizenship to do so. But there was no public indication he actually wanted to play for the U.S. Even putting aside the potential work permit issues of forgoing German citizenship, there was a brief but clear record of Zelalem having accepted Germany’s U-level call ups. If Zelalem wanted to play for the United States, why was he accepting Germany’s invitations?

(MORE: Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem about to jump off the U.S. Soccer radar)

Then, the twist. Oh (for U.S. fans), that glorious twist that an ESPNFC reporter put out on his Twitter feed, one that have fans reason to hope:

No, it wasn’t a commitment to the United States. In fact, nothing Arsenal said hinted that a potential future with the U.S. was even a factor in his decision. But in a world where similar excuses are often smoke screens for real motivations, there remains an obvious possibility: The young midfielder is not ready to make any huge decisions about his future.

At least, that’s what appears to be going on. Zelalem gets almost no benefit from narrowing his options. Even if he commits to Germany, he’s not going to Brazil. He’s probably not going to Russia, and where he to limit his options to the Nationalmannschaft, he may not go to Qatar, either. One 17-year-old’s career is impossible to project, but the potential talent output of the Germany federation? That’s a safer bet. Zelalem will be one of a slew of blue chip prospects coming out of the system. There’s no point to making a commitment  that may not pay off until far into the future.

The big cost of Zelalem’s reluctance is missing out on tournaments like the European U-17 Championships, but consider where those priorities fall in the life of a 17-year-old at Arsenal. In addition to the normal distractions of a teen age existence, Zelalem has the responsibilities that come with being linked to one of the world’s biggest clubs – the training evaluations, games, study, and expectations.

Where most 17-year-olds are overwhelmed by more mundane pursuits, Zelalem’s life must be incredibly full. The occasional competition with U-level national teams pales in comparison to establishing a career at your club. Right now, Arsenal should be soccer priority number one.

In that light, pulling out of Germany’s U-17 squad may not be so much a nod to the U.S. as it is a nod to his reality. Major international soccer is in Zelalem’s future, but it doesn’t need to be a part of his present, especially if he wants to keep his options open. Tying his international future to one of his options? That’s best left for another game, once the shape of his professional career’s revealed.

And perhaps three, maybe five years from now, those options will include the United States. Who knows if he’ll choose it? The big news this week as that those big guns we pulled out two weeks ago misfired. It appears Gedion Zelalem is not going to be a German international any time soon.

Latest Posts
  1. Peru 2-0 Paraguay: Carillo volley gives Peru third place in Copa America

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptm0mmvlntm2nza3owm2njdizti5m2uyzwixztfinjiy AP

    For the second straight Copa America tournament, Peru has left with a third place finish.

  2. USA 4-0 Guatemala: USMNT cruises into Gold Cup with win in Nashville

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Fabian Johnson, Ruben Morales, Carlos Castrillo AP

    Three second half goals led to an easy win for the USMNT, as the Gold Cup is now just four days away.

  3. Turkey time: Nani to Fenerbahce, Podolski set for Galatasaray move

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT

    Nani AP

    Deemed as excess talent by their Premier League clubs, Nani and Lukas Podolski are headed to the Turkish Super Lig.

  4. QPR reject $18 million Leicester City bid for Charlie Austin

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    With Queens Park Rangers relegated to the Championship, the club wants to get top dollar for star striker Charlie Austin.

  5. FOLLOW LIVE — Copa America: Peru and Paraguay clash for third place

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:34 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe1ytrimtq3yjfiy2i0n2q5mtyyowm1nwe5ngq5ztfj AP

    Pride is on the line as Peru and Paraguay look to take home third place at the 2015 Copa America.

  6. Nicolas Anelka named manager of Indian side Mumbai City FC

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    KUWAIT-FRANCE-ANELKA-ISLAM-YOUTH-CONFERENCE Getty Images

    Anelka now a manager? Oh how times have changed…

  7. World players’ union FIFPro opens door to women for first time in 50-year history

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Theo van Seggelen of Fifpro during the International friendly match between Netherlands and Spain on March 31, 2015 at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Women’s players can get representation from FIFPro for the first time in the continued fight for equality.

  8. Sale of West Bromwich Albion nearly complete

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    The West Midlands club released a statement today that new ownership should be in place “by the end of this month.”

  9. Fiorentina could take legal action against Mohamed Salah

    Jul 3, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT

    Mohamed Salah AP

    Fiorentina has lawyered up as the Chelsea winger has reportedly refused to return to the club on another loan.

  10. How will USMNT line up vs. Guatemala in final pre-Gold Cup friendly?

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US AP

    Three suggested lineups for Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the USA vs. Guatemala on Friday.

  11. Friday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Coleman to Manchester United, race for Praet

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    seamus_coleman AP

    Another day, another healthy dollop of gossip from around the Premier League.

  12. Friday night football! Aston Villa vs. Manchester United moved due to EDL march

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Get ready for some PL action under the lights on a Friday night. Well, one game on a Friday, at least.

  13. Slaven Bilic called “The Special One,” accused of disrespect after West Ham’s Europa League qualifier

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    West Ham United v FC Lusitans - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    Hammers boss is, well, hammered, for not standing in the dugout in a Europa League qualifier.

  14. Chelsea confirm season-long loan deal for Radamel Falcao

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    Radamel Falcao AP

    “El Tigre” has landed with the reigning Premier League champs. Good business from Mourinho?

  15. MLS preview: Timbers vs. Earthquakes, Galaxy vs. Toronto FC headline Week 18

    Jul 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

    The second half of the MLS season kicks off Friday night. We’ve got four must-watch games for all to see.

  16. UEFA lifts Financial Fair Play sanctions on Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain

    Jul 3, 2015, 8:40 AM EDT

    Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero

    Fans of the Citizens and Les Parisiens get ready for a summer of big spending…

  17. US Vice President Joe Biden to attend USWNT’s World Cup final vs. Japan

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    150703_JoeBiden Getty Images

    Biden’s love for soccer continues to grow, as a presidential delegation is heading to Vancouver.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip