ARSENAL youngster Folarin Balogun has announced himself on the big stage.
The 19-year-old striker scored within 60 seconds of his debut for the Gunners in the Europa League win over Molde with a lethal strike in the comfortable 3-0 win.
Arsenal youngster Folarin Balogun is rated as the next AubameyangCredit: PA:Press Association
On his debut for the Gunners Balogun netted against Molde in the Europa LeagueCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The New York-born forward, recognised as one of the academy’s top talents, is reportedly stalling on a new contract and wants to leave the club on a free transfer for a new challenge, after he found chances in Mikel Arteta’s team limited.
Championship side Brentford reportedly had a £5million bid rejected in the summer, with the Premier League giants holding out for £8million.
And his journey began in the Big Apple.
Balogun then moved to England at the age of two and his family settled in London.
He played in Sunday league football for Aldersbrook in Essex, and even had a trial with Tottenham.
But he decided to join Arsenal when he was 10 and rose through the ranks with the Gunners.
Simply put, he is a goalscoring machine and has found the net five times this season in the Premier League 2 and EFL Trophy for the U23 side, alongside his Europa League strike.
His prolific record has seen coaches at the Emirates compare the speedy striker to first-team superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
And the Gabon forward recognises the promising youngster’s talents, taking him under his wing in first team training.
“I am the sort of striker that likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender and make runs behind them, similar to the way that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plays,” Balogun told Arsenal.com.
Aubameyang has given the star his backing, too.
Last season’s joint top-scorer in the Premier League responded to a profile of Balogun by saying: “This young boy is [fire emoji]”.
Arteta has a deep chest of young jewels to choose from over the next few years.
Freddie Ljungberg, ex-assistant coach and former head of academy, knows full well the extent of talent in Arsenal’s youth ranks.
Balogun celebrates his debut goal in the Europa League for the GunnersCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Balogun is one of many young stars on Arsenal’s conveyor belt coming throughCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Balogun was hoping to get more first team experience this seasonCredit: PA:Press Association
He has helped progress and promote, with Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock starring in the first team in the past few seasons.
But Balogun has seen his path into the first team blocked by the likes of Aubameyang, Lacazette, and now Nketiah, who has been getting a run of games under Arteta.
“I do a lot of work in training trying to improve and develop different ways of finishing so that when the chance comes, I’m ready to use whichever option is best,” Balogun said.
“It also helps to keep defenders guessing. As the standard of the teams in which you play rises, you get less and less time and fewer opportunities on the ball.
“This is what drives me to be as efficient as possible in front of goal.”
While Balogun waits for his opportunity at club level, he has a choice to make of his own when it comes to the national team.
He has already represented England at youth level, in the 2018 European Championships, but has two other options.
“I was born in New York, so can play for the USA,” he said.
“My parents were born in Nigeria and I have been in England since I was two years old, so I can play for both those countries too!
Balogun has represented England at youth level having starring in the Under-17s European Championships in 2018Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Balogun qualifies to represent Nigeria and the USA despite playing for England’s youth levelsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
“I have several youth caps playing for England and I enjoy their style of play which is similar to Arsenal’s.
“I will be discussing matters with my parents and will then decide.”
His curtain call awaits.
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