A weight of expectation that young players could do without

Over the last few years it has become apparent, that the media and those within the game are comparing more young players to the great players of the past. It seems as if every other week, we hear about the ‘new’ Zidane, Pele or Maradona, yet many of these young players never live up to the name-tag, and is it any wonder when they have that huge added pressure placed upon their shoulders.

It’s not fair for a young player who is just starting out their career to have the sort of pressure associated with that sort of name-tag. For a youngster simply trying to improve, it could be very detrimental to their development, throwing them into a harsh spotlight at an early stage. Labelling young players creates high expectations in not just the players minds, but also those around him and the supporters, and thus the player is seen as a failure if they don’t ever live up to those unobtainable heights. It’s not good for a young players mentality, as they might buy into the hype themselves, creating wildly unrealistic expectations for themselves and those around them. It’s difficult to keep your feet on the ground when you’ve just been labelled the ‘new Pele’.

There was only one Zidane, one Pele, and to compare somebody at the beginning of their career to one of the greats, is simply ridiculous. Those players are one offs, players whose skills amazed us and who achieved greatness in the game. By pigeon holing players under these labels we are just setting them up for failure before they have even started their careers.

Houllier in his time at Liverpool named Bruno Cheyrou the ‘new Zidane’ but where is he now? Had Houllier not made such a ridiculous claim, perhaps Cheyrou would have had more time to develop and rise through the ranks at Liverpool, rather than being thrust into the spotlight, and almost immediately labelled a failure. There has been a list of Argentine players compared to Maradona-Ortega and Saviola to name a few-who have become successful players in their own right, but because they were labelled as the ‘new Maradona’, and never achieved his heights in the game, they are automatically labelled as failing or not achieving their potential.

Samir Nasri was another labelled the ‘new Zidane’-he is probably closer to it than Cheyrou-just because they played in the same position and had similar family backgrounds. More ridiculous is Steve Kean who recently labelled Blackburn signing Myles Anderson as the new Chris Smalling. How can he be the new Chris Smalling, when Chris Smalling has barely got his own career off the ground?

Players need to be left to create their own identity, and leave their own mark on the game, otherwise they are more than likely to succumb to the ridiculous burdens placed upon them. Perhaps more young players would successfully fulfill their potential and talent, if they weren’t thrown into such a harsh spotlight. Having talent is no guarantee that you are going to be world class, but surely if players were left to develop on their own, there would be a greater success rate.

It seems as if with the constant name-tagging of young players we are always setting them up for failure. I’m sure over the next few years, players will be hailed as the new Xavi’s and Messi’s of the world, but how many will succeed to live up to those name-tags? Probably very few, because the pressure and the expectations it creates are just too much for a young player to live up to.