Zelalem's international options
HARRISON, New Jersey -- Arsenal's rising starlet Gedion Zelalem insists that he hasn't made a choice on his international future yet but revealed that he has already spoken with U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
"We've talked on the phone a few times but nothing advanced," Zelalem said after his team lost 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls in a friendly.
German-born Zelalem has a U.S. Green Card and stated that he is still working on getting an American passport.
Similar to the U.S.'s pursuit of Julian Green just last year, the Yanks' fan base is already clamoring for the 17-year-old to join the Stars and Stripes -- despite the midfielder only making one appearance with the Gunners' senior squad.
Zelalem was pretty tight-lipped about his future but admitted that it would be exciting to play for either side. "They are both great countries, the U.S. is on the rise and Germany is already a good team," he said. "Either country will be a good choice."
Zelalem started and played 45 minutes, showing glimpses of his potential in front of a sold out Red Bull Arena crowd. He made it clear that the only thing that he's focused on is making an impression on his current club manager Arsene Wenger.
"At the moment, I'm just trying to break into the first team at Arsenal. I'm trying to play football at Arsenal," he said.
However, according to his Gunners teammates, the teen has already shown signs of his quality.
His teammate Jack Wilshire, once a highly-touted up-and-comer himself, complemented the teen's ability on the ball but admitted that he still needs some work to become a fixture in the Arsenal lineup.
"Naturally, he's going to grow physically and become stronger. Playing with great players, he's only going to improve."
He also mentioned that he thought Zelalem was excited to play in front of a U.S. soccer crowd, especially with the player having spent his formulative and early teenaged years in the D.C. area.
"Yeah, he's from the States and it's always nice to come back to you home country and play. I think that he enjoyed it."
French legend and New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry weighed in on the debate, saying that he doesn't feel sorry for Zelalem having pressure at 17 to make a international decision."If he's good then he's going to have to deal with it. I've been playing since I was 17."
Zelalem stated afterwards that he doesn't feel any pressure about his eventual choice, although he did wrap things up with what could prove to be a telling comment -- when asked whether or not he owns a U.S. jersey, he replied: "My dad does."