Ryan Sessegnon is no longer the unknown hot prospect in Fulham’s academy anymore.
It’s been hard to avoid the hype surrounding the teenager since he made his senior debut for the Whites last August, aged just 16.
His impressive form saw him make 30 appearances in all competitions, scoring seven goals and being named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year at left-back, making Sessegnon the youngest player ever included.
One of the hottest prospects in Europe
His performances attracted attention from across Europe, with the teenager reportedly a Liverpool transfer target, as well as being linked to a number of clubs including Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig.
Ryan Sessegnon Goal HD – England U19 3… by Football–Live
Sessegnon has received endless praise from team-mates, with Stefan Johansen saying: “It’s 99 per cent certain he will be one of the top left-backs in the world.”
Neeskens Kebano has also eulogised about him.
“Sessegnon is going to be the future of English football – he is that good,” he said.
“Sometimes, you forget how young he is. We speak in French, and often when I ask him for his opinion about certain things, I suddenly realise he is too young to answer the question.
“And when we stay in a hotel the night before a game, he’s not allowed to be alone in a room because he’s under 18 years old.
“But if you only had to judge him by what he does on the field, you would never think he is his age.
“Is he the best young player I’ve ever seen? Put it this way, I have worked with many, many young players, but he is the most talented for his age.”
Kebano may be right, but Johansen may not. There is no doubt Sessegnon is a great prospect, but his future may lie further forward – just like Gareth Bale.
Time to copy Bale?
The former Spurs winger became one of the best in the world after moving forward from left-back, using his pace and finishing to deadly effect at the top of the pitch.
Sessegnon has the ability to do just that – if you ask many Fulham fans, they will tell you that is his best position.
It’s no coincidence that the two times this season the 17-year-old has been named man of the match by the Fulham fans via the club’s official channels, it’s been when he has played in a more advanced role as part of the front three – against Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff.
Indeed, the match against the Welsh side saw him net his first goal of the season, a poacher’s effort from inside the box, where he was in the right place in the right time, something Sessegnon has a habit of doing.
Sessegnon scored twice and won an injury-time penalty which Tim Ream missed. The teenager wanted to take it, too, and could have become a 16-year-old hat-trick-scorer at St James’ Park, which doesn’t happen every day.
His two goals against the Magpies underlined how deadly he can be.
In his first (above), he picked the ball up straight from goalkeeper David Button, running at the Newcastle defence who were caught up field, before playing a perfect ball to Johansen.
The ball was worked into the box before it fell to Sone Aluko, who back-heeled it to Sessegnon. The teenager needed no more than one touch to put it past the keeper, with the instincts of an attacker.
His second (above) also showed those killer instincts.
With Newcastle stretched, he made the perfect run for Aluko to send him through on goal, only needing one touch before smashing it past the goalkeeper.
Of course, he could bomb forward from full-back, or wing-back, like Danny Rose, but playing Sessegnon in a more advanced position gets the best out of him.
He doesn’t have to worry as much about his defensive responsibilities, although of course he will still track back, but it’s not his main focus.
Of course, he is only 17 and is learning all the time, and his defensive skills will no doubt improve.
But, when he is so deadly from a more advanced position, it seems like that should be where his future lies – when Rafa Soares is fit for Fulham, they will have an obvious candidate to substitute Sessegnon at left-back, too, rather than the right-footed Denis Odoi who is a natural right-back.
Indeed, it was on the wing where he played for England’s youth team this summer, as he scored three goals and finished the European Under-19 Championships as joint top-scorer as the Three Lions were crowned champions of that tournament for the first time.
While Sessegnon continues to impress there, it seems only a matter of time before he copies Bale and permanently moves further up the pitch – and there’s no reason why he can’t aim for the Welshman’s level of success too.