THE departure of several key stars has made for a tough summer for Valencia – but one talented English teenager is offering room for optimism at the Mestalla Stadium.
Former Arsenal academy star Yunus Musah became the first English player to represent the Spanish side when he started their opening 4-2 La Liga win over Levante on 13 September.
And at 17 years 289 days, it also made England youth international Musah the club’s youngest foreign player, as well as putting him in the top 10 youngest overall.
Musah made his second successive start in a 2-1 defeat by Celta Vigo on Saturday, meaning he has played 171 of Valencia’s 180 league minutes so far as he seeks to consolidate a place in the first team following the club’s turbulent pre-season.
Valencia supporters protested against owner Peter Lim before the Levante game, after former Watford boss Javi Gracia became the club’s eighth different manager since 2014 and key players Ferran Torres, Rodrigo, Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin all departed.
However, their side twice came from behind in the 4-2 derby victory, with Musah’s impressive debut further helping to lift the mood.
“I was very happy. I couldn’t stop smiling and I called my parents afterwards,” Musah told the club’s website post-match.
“I spoke with them to thank them and I want to thank everybody who has helped me to have this moment.”
So, just how did he get here?
Musah has captained England from under-15 to under-18 level, despite also being eligible to represent Ghana, Italy and the United States.
Of Ghanaian descent, he was born in the American city New York while his mother was on holiday there in November 2002 and then lived in Italy until the age of nine.
He began his youth career in Italy, with local side Giorgione, before joining Arsenal’s academy after moving to London in 2012.
Musah spent seven years with the Gunners and played a key role in their under-18s’ Premier League South triumph in 2018-2019, scoring four goals and making three assists in 15 appearances that campaign, before his Valencia move.
The versatile midfielder has featured centrally and on the wing for both club and country, and has already established a reputation for his slick passing, creativity and pace.
The question now is: just how good could he be?
“The merit for what players do, like Yunus, should go to the player. There is the makings of a player there, and despite his age he showed great maturity to endure the level of demand that was there,” Gracia said following Musah’s debut against Levante.
“That should be valued and we should take care of him, so that in the future he contributes many more things to Valencia.”
Having already demonstrated his exciting potential in Valencia’s opening games of 2020-21, Musah’s present challenge is to cement his place as a regular starter – and perhaps get his first goal.
He came closest when he struck the woodwork against Levante, and his end product is something the player himself identifies as an area for immediate improvement.
“I want to score more goals and be more consistent with my passes,” he said. “Sometimes in the game I can do so many good passes and one bad one. I want to correct that.”
Musah has described himself as “a passer and also physical”, adding: “I can run past players because I’m a bit bigger than some of them. I’m really good at passing and I can create a lot of chances.”
Valencia – and England – will be hoping he can continue to flourish during his time at the Mestalla, where he is contracted until 2022.
– Sept. 24, 2020 @ 08:25 GMT |