Mar 27, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT
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?
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:
(1/2) Arsenal spokesperson confirms that Gedion Zelalem has declined call up to German U-17 team. #usmnt—
Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) March 25, 2014
(2/2) Club said Zelalem would remain w/team b/c "of important fixtures in the Club’s U21s fixture schedule & to work on his fitness." #usmnt—
Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) March 25, 2014
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.
Apr 19, 2015, 11:39 AM EDT
Mourinho plays up defensive masterclass. But how did he quell United’s attackers?
Apr 19, 2015, 10:44 AM EDT
Spurs search for a European place as they take on struggling Newcastle from St. James’ Park.
Apr 19, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT
The home side produced enough moments at the Etihad to see off a timid West Ham side.
Apr 19, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
With his goal of an Eredivisie title secure, Memphis Depay will be a popular transfer target this coming summer.
Apr 19, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
The West Ham defender flubbed an easy clearance and sent the ball into his own net as Manchester City have dominated West Ham in the first half.
Apr 19, 2015, 8:16 AM EDT
Thomas Tuchel will follow in Jurgen Klopp’s footsteps for the second time when he takes over at Borussia Dortmund this summer.
Apr 19, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT
A pair of slipping sides meet at the Etihad in a rematch of last seasons title-clinching win for Manchester City.
Apr 19, 2015, 7:31 AM EDT
It’s that time of year, where big clubs look to the bench to replace important players in big games.
Apr 19, 2015, 1:14 AM EDT
Keeping tabs on all the action from Week 7 of the 2015 MLS season.
Apr 19, 2015, 12:41 AM EDT
Late, late, late drama as the StubHub Center.
Apr 18, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT
Two red cards for RSL, a late goal for Vancouver and the Whitecaps just keep winning.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT
Do the top teams have a responsibility to entertain, or should they look to win at all costs, no matter how boring it may be?
Apr 18, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT
Crew SC are going to be a really, really scary team once they get going. They picked up a great deal of steam on Saturday night.
Apr 18, 2015, 6:58 PM EDT
Not the ideal time for a pair of key players to go down in the same game, four days before a CL quarterfinal second leg.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:58 PM EDT
New week, same story, new teams on top, same old excitement — the Championship is truly amazing this year.
Apr 18, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
It was an historic day for Messi, as Barca inch closer to the league tile. Elsewhere, Juve remind everyone Serie A is all theirs.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT
A pair of Premier League matches are ready for your Sunday viewing pleasure, and take note that one features a different broadcast channel.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Here’s what happened in Saturday’s five matches.
Apr 18, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
Seventy-seven percent of this weekend’s Bundesliga results are in the books, and Germany is still waiting for its first upset.
Apr 18, 2015, 3:56 PM EDT
Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney felt his team did enough to top Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but the score line says otherwise.
- Jose Mourinho: Chelsea had Manchester United’s stars “in our pockets.” Is he right? 0
- Manchester City 2-0 West Ham: Two first half goals put down poor Hammers 0
- Borussia Dortmund names Thomas Tuchel as Jurgen Klopp’s successor 0
- MLS roundup: Goals galore as Sounders, Crew SC, Galaxy cruise to three points 1
- MLS Snapshot: LA Galaxy 2-1 Sporting Kansas City 0
- MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps 0