Sunderland have had a number of talented youngsters come through their academy over the years, including the likes of Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford – who could be playing in the World Cup next month.
Unfortunately, not every young player who bursts onto the scene goes on to live up to their potential and the Black Cats have had their fair share of failed wonderkids over the years.
One talented youngster who has, as it stands, failed to live up to the hype surrounding him as an academy starlet at the club is winger Joel Asoro.
The attacker, who left the Stadium of Light in the summer of 2018, came up through the system on Wearside after arriving from Sweden in 2015 and broke into the first team as a teenager.
He had scored 20 goals in 27 games for Sweden between U16 and U17 level and made his Premier League debut for the Black Cats in the 2016/17 campaign, which led to interest in his services from teams across Europe and he was once dubbed a ‘wonderkid‘ by UEFA’s website.
It was reported that Paris Saint-Germain met with the youngster’s agent regarding a potential move to the Ligue 1 giants, whilst Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Atlético Madrid were also said to be keen on him. He was valued at up to €15m at the time (roughly £11m in today’s market) and described as a ‘prodigy‘ by FootMercato.
“Joel has got potential and he is very young. He is 18 this week and he is someone who we introduced into the first-team set-up during pre-season because of numbers but he made a big impact.”
However, he was unable to make a significant impact at senior level when he was given a regular spot in the first team for 2017/18. He played 26 times in the Championship, scoring three goals and providing two assists.
Sunderland were relegated to League One at the end of that season and Asoro opted to move to Swansea to link up with Graham Potter in Wales, for a reported fee of £2m – considerably less than the fee mentioned amid the previous interest from PSG.
He ended up making 18 appearances for the Swans and spent time out on loan at FC Groningen and Genoa, failing to play a single game with the latter, before signing for Swedish side Djurgardens IF on a permanent deal in 2021.
He has gone from making his Premier League debut and being chased by PSG and Bayern Munich as a teenager, whilst being valued at around £11m, to playing in Sweden – away from Europe’s top five leagues – and being worth a small fraction of that.
Asoro was unable to kick on at Sunderland or Swansea after the initial hype around his potential when he was in his teens and there is little evidence to suggest that a dramatic comeback is on the way. Although, he still has plenty of time left ahead of him at the age of 23 to progress in the future.
As it stands, though, he has not lived up to the potential he had as a youngster and the Blacks Cats will not be looking back on his sale with regret.