Unfortunately, it is a difficult path taken by many young footballers.
Marcus Edwards was linked with 17-year-old Lionel Messi, but three years later he left Tottenham – a club he had been on the books of since he was eight.
But the attacking midfielder, now 23, used that disappointment to his advantage and is now shining for Spurs’ Champions League opponents on Wednesday – Sporting Lisbon.
Edwards showed what his boyhood club had missed a great display against them in Portugal last monthand will make up his mind to do it again when he returns to north London.
High hopes, but Spurs’ dreams are falling short
Edwards will once again face his former self with a point to prove, but why couldn’t someone compared to one of the game’s greats thrive at the club where he spent almost his entire childhood?
It was then Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino who drew comparisons with Messi, saying in 2016: “The quality, his body and the way he plays reminds him a bit of Messi from the beginning.”
A left-sided midfielder, Edwards – like Messi – has a low center of gravity and quick feet, so the comparisons were obvious, but at the same time, it put a lot of hope and pressure on the youngster, especially the late one. it is already being carefully managed.
Edwards was shy as a teenager and would largely keep to himself. According to Pochettino’s 2017 autobiography, he also had behavioral and timing problems. These last two traits made it difficult for the coaches to feel like they could be rewarded, giving their unquestioned talent a platform to shine until they were sorted out.
Attempts to do so were made with loan spells away from the club, firstly with then-Championship side Norwich, but after just one appearance for the Canaries he was sent to Spurs, with timing and general attitude. reasons cut behind his stay.
Another failed loan spell at Dutch side Excelsior saw Edwards make just one appearance for the club before leaving Tottenham – in a League Cup tie against Gillingham in 2016.
“That road to the top is different for each person,” Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague said on BBC Radio 5’s live Euro Leagues podcast.
“Spurs’ head of academy at the time, John McDermott, worked a lot with Marcus.
“You don’t know if what you choose to do is going to be the right thing, but that’s why they did what they did, they decided to stick with him, realizing, ‘no, you need a better personality to deal with things. They’ll come with you.’
He offered a platform in Portugal
Failing to progress at Spurs, Edwards’ 13-year association with the club ended in September 2019. He left not only his home club, but also his country, as he went to Portugal to join Vitoria Guimaraes.
Portuguese football journalist Tom Kundert thought it was a brave move, especially for someone seen as a bit of an introvert.
“I’ve lived in Portugal for 25 years and I’m always quite excited when an Englishman comes to play here,” he told BBC Sport.
“I can probably count them on one hand, so it was a brave move on his part.”
It didn’t take long for him to make an impression. A few weeks after joining the club, Edwards scored his first goal after eight minutes Spurs’ Europa League tie with rivals Arsenal.
Nineteen more goals followed as Edwards made 96 appearances for Vitoria before Sporting Lisbon made a move in January.
Edwards has produced a number of striking displays for Sporting, in particular 2-0 win over Spurs last month, in the Champions League match in Portugal. His highlight moment came before half-time when he picked up the ball, took on several Tottenham players and played a one-two before his shot was saved by Hugo Lloris.
“Francisco Trincao was seen as a marquee signing for Sporting, the player most fans were looking for to be the main man, but Edwards has been,” added Kundert. “He has been man of the match in quite a few games.
“While he’s been in Portugal he’s definitely playing a lot more centrally than he’s done and it seems to be getting the best out of him.
“He has tremendous dribbling ability and tight control. He is a very exciting player to watch.”
England call-up next?
That moment against Spurs and Edwards’ performance in general led many observers to suggest he should get a senior England call-up.
Edwards is also a Cypriot right through his mother, but he played for England up to Under-20 level and helped them Won the Under-19 European Championship five years ago
Sports coach Ruben Amorim believes his striker is ready to make his senior England debut.
“He has the characteristics, he has the talent,” he said. “He can join the England team.”
This year’s World Cup may come too soon for Edwards, but another headline display against Spurs on Wednesday night and it will be increasingly difficult for Gareth Southgate to ignore him.