Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch has previously suggested that summer signing Wilfried Gnonto is “not ready” for first-team action but his fifth senior cap for Italy this week would certainly suggest otherwise.
“No,” the American head coach said in response to one question on whether the 18-year-old would be ‘Premier League ready.’ He added (via LeedsLive): “I didn’t even know that that’s out there. But we know who he is. And with him, it’d be more of a long-term project.”
However, after his cameo in England’s 1-0 defeat to Gli Azzurri, Marsch may well want to change his stance on the former FC Zurich talisman.
Italy boss Roberto Mancini has now called upon the teenager five times, the latest being this 27-minute stint from the bench against the Three Lions, where he certainly caught the eye.
It’s perhaps even fascinating to suggest that a player who has been capped on the international stage at senior level is not ready for the Premier League, yet others who have not done the same feat – Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood spring to mind – are indeed ready.
Gnonto is Italy’s youngest-ever goalscorer, breaking a record held since 1958, so it’s no mean feat to be involved and it certainly suggests that it isn’t down to a mere lack of options in the frontline role for the former Manchester City manager.
The Italian press lauded Leeds’ young forward for his impact, having replaced West Ham United‘s Gianluca Scamacca, and it only adds to the glowing endorsements he’s received over the course of his short career to date.
“‘In some ways, like a boy, he’s unpredictable. It is a joy to see him play. In some ways, he is mature like a 25-year-old player. It doesn’t matter who he plays against,” once claimed Zurich’s sporting director Marinko Jurendic (via the Daily Mail).
That unpredictable yet mature nature could be of big use to Marsch after the international break, particularly if any other injury issues arise with Patrick Bamford, who has been restricted to only 13 appearances since the start of the 2021/22 campaign.
If Gelhardt and co are ready, then who is the 48-year-old to say that Gnonto is not? Italy’s record-breaker could soon be unleashed after England got a taste of exactly what the 5 foot 5 gem can offer his team.