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The Next Big Thing By Ryan Baldi

Release date: 10th May, 2019
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £9.99
Our Price: £8.85
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One of football’s most compelling characteristics is its constant renewal. Few things raise fans’ expectations more, or give them greater joy, than the prospect of a home-grown youngster coming through the ranks and establishing himself in the first team.

Yet the likelihood of a teenage sensation playing his way into top flight contention and staying there is remarkably slim. Even after greenhorns make their trumpeted debut, few develop into global superstars.

The list of those expected to become the next Pele, Maradona, Zidane or Ronaldo is disappointingly long. In recent years, we’ve witnessed players who appear to have everything, yet they’re unable to either sustain their form or attitude, or avoid serious injury and their careers fade as rapidly as they have blossomed.

Footballers such as Italian forward Federico Macheda, who scored in his first senior game for Manchester United in 2009, a goal which represented the pinnacle of his career. Then there was Anthony Le Tallec was a fresh-faced Frenchman destined to become the next Zidane when he arrived at Anfield, or another United starlet, Ravel Morrison, ‘the new George Best’, who encountered so many problems off the pitch he was moved on. John Bostock became Crystal Palace’s youngest ever player at the tender age of 15 years and 287 days before moving to Spurs in a deal worth £700,000, though he would never make a first team league appearance.

The list goes on and on.

In his captivating first book, The Next Big Thing, Ryan Baldi examines the roles played by injury, luck, poor attitude, physical development, fate and a host of other factors which prevented fifteen youngsters from reaching football’s highest echelons despite being on the books at some of the world’s biggest clubs, mostly after representing their respective countries at various age levels.

Though his sample of would-be superstars is tiny, Baldi discovers that while his interviewees had much in common as they rose through the ranks, the factors which resulted in them failing to make the grade varied enormously. Serious injury, bad advice, poor off-field decision-making, temptation and a frustrating slowdown in physical development hampered many of them. Sadly, there’s little doubt that similar factors account for the huge number of youngsters discarded each season by a football development machine focused solely on producing identikit athletes.

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