Joel Asoro has a big future ahead of him. But you don’t need me to tell you that. Nominated for the prestigious European Golden Boy award alongside the likes of Kevin Mbappe and Gabriel Jesus this month, Asoro is destined for great things.
Asoro signed for Sunderland in the summer of 2015 and quickly settled into life on Wearside, netting seven goals in just 14 appearances for the Under-18 squad in 2015/16. The following year, August 21st, he became Sunderland and Sweden’s youngest ever Premier League player when he came on as an 81st minute sub against Middlesbrough.
He has continued to impress on the international stage, scoring an incredible 14 goals in 21 appearances for Sweden’s Under-17 side, and has already scored for the Swedish Under-21 team too. In fact, on his debut for Sweden’s Under-21s against Spain Under-21s, Asoro was scouted by tens of elite European clubs including Arsenal, Bayern, and Juventus. Big clubs are already taking note of our 17 year old forward, and he is rightly considered one of Europe’s hottest prospects.
Despite all the acclaim, the diminutive Asoro has found his first-team opportunities at Sunderland limited due to the consistent form of Jermain Defoe and David Moyes’ bewildering persistence to play Adnan Januzaj and Fabio Borini.
However, this summer Sunderland must decide what to do with Asoro. There are three viable options.
Cash in on him
With our financial situation bleak, and likely to be a reason for stripping the club of key assets like Pickford and Kone, Martin Bain and David Moyes will be looking for other players who they can cash in on. Joel Asoro would certainly attract the interest of clubs across Europe, such is the level of his potential. However, the key word here is ‘potential’ as that is what another club would be paying for.
Joel Asoro may be a talented kid, but he isn’t a developed footballer – neither on the pitch nor in terms of his physique. Therefore, another club would not pay over the odds for him. It would be typical Sunderland to sell one of our brightest young prospects for £2 million this summer only to see him be valued ten times that the following season.
Unfortunately, we may not be in a financial position to turn down bids if we need player sales to generate money for a squad overhaul; our accounts are due to be revealed next week and this will indicate just how desperate our position is. However, selling him at this stage would be a mistake.
Loan him out
Of all the three options, I think this one is the least likely. This would require us to be in a financial position where we don’t need the money from his sale, but we also don’t require his undoubted talent in the Championship next season.
This option will only be feasible if we are able to move fast and secure the signings of several forwards who will lead our promotion push next season. Jason Cummings has been mooted as Defoe’s replacement next season - but we will need at least three or four forwards to replace the goals of Defoe, the frustrated posturing of Borini, and the sulky ineffectiveness of Januzaj. I’d be very surprised if we were able to loan Asoro out.
This is my preferred option for what it’s worth (very little, I know). Defoe has been a brilliant servant to the club, both on and off the pitch and he will be missed, but he deserves another season in the top flight... and that won’t be with us. In his absence next season, we will need a striker or two to step up and take on the mantle of goalscorer. I am confident Asoro has the talent as well as the drive and determination to stake a place in the first-team next season.
The physicality of the league may be a steep learning curve for him initially (he’s only a wee lad), but young players with his physique have come of age in the Championship this season. The obvious example is Ryan Sessegnon who has been one of the stand-out performers in that league, despite only being 16 years old. We will have a strong core of young players at the club next season including Gooch, McNair, and Watmore. If given the chance, Asoro could prove to be the best of the bunch.
With turbulence gripping the club both on and off the field, no one really knows what will happen next season. Relegation does, however, seem likely and with that comes upheaval. Many of our current squad will be sold or not offered a new deal, while others will be bought to take their place.
Joel Asoro has an opportunity to stake a claim for a role in the team next season, and I believe he has the quality to do so. He turns 18 next week (Happy Birthday, Joel!) and officially becomes a man - here’s hoping he turns out to be Sunderland’s main man next season.
Do you think Asoro should be given a larger role in the squad next season?
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