Skip to content

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

Mar 27, 2014, 10:35 PM EST

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. PHOTOS: 2015 MLS jerseys have been unveiled — Which is the best? Worst?

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:22 PM EST

    MLS logo MLS logo

    Because who doesn’t love to critique and compare every team’s new jerseys?

  2. WATCH: Mohamed Salah’s 60-yard dribble and wondergoal; Juventus 1-2 Fiorentina

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 PM EST

    Mohamed Salah, ACF Fiorentina Mohamed Salah, ACF Fiorentina

    The dribble was a thing of beauty, but he still had to apply the finish. Not a problem for Salah.

  3. Now that it’s happening, MLS’s 20th season is sure to be the best one yet

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Kaka, Orlando City SC Kaka, Orlando City SC

    The season is officially on. Here’s a few reasons to get excited, in case you’re not already. (You should be.)

  4. 2015 MLS season preview: Real Salt Lake

    Mar 5, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Real Salt Lake logo

    Jeff Cassar impressed in year one, but can he rebuild RSL and make them his own in year two?

  5. 2015 MLS season preview: LA Galaxy

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    LA Galaxy logo

    Bruce’s boys are back, and once again, rebuilt. This changes little for a team with more championship aspirations.

  6. 2015 MLS season preview: Portland Timbers

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    Portland Timbers logo

    Caleb Porter’s final foray in the Rose City? He’ll need the playoffs this year, otherwise…

  7. 2015 MLS season preview: Seattle Sounders

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders logo

    After winning two of three titles last season, can the Sounders finally clinch that pesky MLS Cup?

  8. PST predicts Major League Soccer’s 2015 standings; Do you agree?

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    Kreis and Reyna have painstakingly put the inaugural NYCFC squad together. AP

    From expansion team finishing first to making the playoffs to finishing in last, our writers have varied opinions on how MLS will unfold in 2015.

  9. Premier League Playback: With 10 games to go, here’s how things stand

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    PST’s Editor and Lead Writer looks back at the midweek madness, and assesses where we are at with 10 games to go.

  10. 2015 MLS season preview: New England Revolution

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST

    New England logo

    Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…

  11. Men In Blazers podcast: Ginormous preview of 2015 MLS season with Alexi Lalas

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    meninblazers

    In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.

  12. MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks new CBA deal; hails players’ role in progress

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.

  13. Top 10 breakout players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST

    Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.

  14. 2015 MLS season preview: New York Red Bulls

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    500px-New_York_Red_Bulls_logo

    How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?

  15. Who, if anybody, won the CBA negotiations in MLS: The players or the league?

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST

    2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented By Adidas Getty Images

    Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?

  16. Winston Reid signs new long-term deal at West Ham United

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST

    West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.

  17. VIDEO: QPR’s Chris Ramsey “genuinely sick” after loss to Arsenal

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.