MANCHESTER — Teenage sensation Gedion Zelalem has got the seal of approval from his club manager for selecting to represent the U.S. national team over Germany.
Earlier this week U.S. soccer announced that Zelalem, 18, had his switch from Germany to the U.S. rubber-stamped by FIFA as the Berlin-born midfielder is heading to the U-20 World Cup with Tab Ramos’ side.
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Following Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United on Sunday, ProSoccerTalk asked Gunners manager Arsene Wenger about Zelalem’s decision to leave the German national team setup and switch to the USA.
Wenger said he spoke with the young midfielder about it and revealed some of Zelalem’s motives.
“I leave the freedom to the players to play for the country where their heart is,” Wenger said. “There are more and more people who have been educated in two or three different countries. He is an interesting case because he has been educated until the age of 9-10 in Germany and then 10-15 in the States. That is maybe the age where you go out of the family and start to have friends. He felt he wanted to play for the States.”
Zelalem has made two appearances for Arsenal’s first-team over the past two seasons, coming on as a substitute against Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League in 2014-15, but the youngster may head out on loan next season rather than continuing to play for the U-21 side.
“It is possible [a loan move] but I always test the players in preseason,” Wenger said. “After preseason I make an assessment on how close they are to the first team. If he is not close next year then yes, he needs to play somewhere.”
Wenger then hailed the influence of Jurgen Klinsmann and believes the U.S. national team head coach is capable of being a hugely positive figure in Zelalem’s burgeoning career.
“Fantastic,” Wenger beamed. “Jurgen has all the knowledge that is needed at the top level. He has now started to have a good experience as a coach as well. It will be fantastic for him [Zelalem].”