Next Generation – Rayan Cherki, Lyon's latest academy gem earning links to Real Madrid, Man Utd

By Sports Desk March 27, 2020

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

Rayan Cherki is Lyon's latest academy prodigy and has set his sights firmly on the top, openly admitting last week that he aspires to one day play for Real Madrid.

He is the 16-year-old who has already made 12 senior appearances for Lyon and been tipped to emulate Kylian Mbappe as the next big thing to come out of Ligue 1.

Madrid are not alone in showing an interest in the teenage midfielder, though, with Manchester United and Liverpool also among those to have been linked.

Able to play on either flank or through the middle and capable of embarrassing defenders with his trickery, Cherki is very much a player with the world at his feet.

@UEFAYouthLeague pic.twitter.com/Rmi94MAfaZ

— Rayan Cherki (@rayan_cherki) March 9, 2020

THE BREAKTHROUGH

After scoring in the UEFA Youth League at the age of 15, becoming the youngest player to do so at the time, Cherki was already a name on Lyon fans' lips when making his senior bow.

That came in a stalemate with Dijon in October, making him the youngest player - at 16 years and 63 days - to appear for Lyon in Ligue 1 since Willem Geubbels in 2017.

By comparison, World Cup-winning striker Mbappe was still more than nine months away from his Monaco debut at the same age.

And while the game finished in a bore draw, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas heaped praise on the youngster and later said he has the potential to become better than Mbappe.

"He is more technical than Mbappe... and more important - he has broken out at a younger age," Aulas told Tuttosport in February. "If he stays at Lyon for another few years, he will become even better than Mbappe."

Aulas was not alone in hailing Cherki, with boss Rudi Garcia singling him out for his energy in the middle of the park - something that would start to become a more regular occurrence.

Faut pas trop lui parler d’âge hein. @rayan_cherki https://t.co/lqZ6ihu600

— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) January 18, 2020

STEPPING UP

Praise and potential is one thing, of course - showing that you are capable of living up to the hype is another matter entirely.

In the five months between making his senior debut and the enforced Ligue 1 break due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cherki regularly justified the talk of being the next big thing.

He has gone on to make 12 appearances for Lyon in all competitions - four of those as a starter - totalling 453 minutes in total.

Impressively, the France Under-16 international already boasts three goals and two assists, giving him a return of one goal involvement per 91 minutes on the field. He is also creating a scoring opportunity every 41 minutes.

Four of those goals involvements - two strikes of his own and two assists - came in January's Coupe de France win over Nantes, earning front-page billing on French daily L'Equipe. 

If Europe's elite clubs had not taken notice of Cherki before then, they certainly did at this point.

What a performance! @rayan_cherki pic.twitter.com/pi97bCaJMD

— OL English (@OL_English) January 18, 2020

SUSTAINING HIS FORM

Lyon have a history of bringing through talented youngsters, with the likes of Nabil Fekir, Karim Benzema, Corentin Tolisso and Samuel Umtiti among them.

The first player born in 2003 or later to play in Ligue 1, Cherki now needs to maintain the form he has displayed in his first half-season in order to emulate those aforementioned stars.

And the attacking midfielder, whose solitary league start came away at Paris Saint-Germain, certainly does not lack confidence when it comes to his career path.

"My dream is to play for Real Madrid," he said in an interview with Lyon TV last week, perhaps swayed by the progress of compatriots Benzema and Raphael Varane at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Cherki, also eligible to represent Italy or Algeria at international level through his parents, also outlined his intention to one day win the Ballon d'Or.

The versatile attacker still has a long way to go for that to happen, of course, and there are improvements to be made. One of the criticisms has been his insistence on going it alone too often, rather than taking an easier option.

"He has a strong ability to beat players but uses it too much and not especially wisely," Garcia said at the turn of the year, perhaps trying to downplay the growing hype. "We have to be careful with our young players, that's why we protect him a lot, especially in the media aspect of things. He is fairly quiet, but he must be aware that he still has huge room for improvement. The good thing about him is that he listens. If he continues like this, he will be able to go as high as possible."

Heed the advice of his manager and the path to superstardom awaits for Cherki, whether at Lyon, Real Madrid or elsewhere.

Lyon's youngster of many talents appears very much to be the next big thing to emerge from an academy that just keeps on giving.

Related items

  • Coronavirus: LaLiga gets green light for Monday and Friday matches this season Coronavirus: LaLiga gets green light for Monday and Friday matches this season

    The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has told LaLiga it will permit matches being played on Mondays and Fridays to facilitate the 2019-20 season's conclusion.

    The announcement came despite the country's commercial courts ruling in favour of RFEF in their long-running legal battle with LaLiga over Monday and Friday night matches, the federation previously arguing that the scheduling of games on those days required their approval.

    A temporary measure had been put in place this season whereby Friday night matches were allowed, but fixtures on Mondays were not.

    However, RFEF said in a statement that it wishes to "show its good will" by allowing LaLiga to play on both days this season, should 2019-20 resume after the suspension enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

    It also remined LaLiga that the judge urged any future negotiations regarding the staging of matches on the days in question be conducted "in good faith".

    The statement said: "The RFEF shows its maximum satisfaction for the sentence issued this morning by the commercial judge number two of Madrid, in which it dismisses the demand of LaLiga and declares that the dispute of matches on Friday and Monday requires the approval of the RFEF.

    "The RFEF has always been convinced that it was assisted by reason in this matter.

    "Furthermore, the RFEF wants to clearly show its good will, facilitating the season to end smoothly.

    "Therefore, it offers LaLiga - without linking it to the start of negotiations - that matches can be played on Friday and Monday, which are included in the calendar, from the resumption of competition and until the end of this season, without requesting anything in exchange for this month and a half."

  • 'Angry' Cristiano Ronaldo experience inspired Bruno Guimaraes 'Angry' Cristiano Ronaldo experience inspired Bruno Guimaraes

    Cristiano Ronaldo's anger in defeat provided a lesson for Bruno Guimaraes, even if the Lyon midfielder missed the opportunity to swap shirts with his idol.

    Guimaraes has played just five times for Lyon since his €20million January move from Athletico Paranaense, but the 22-year-old has already made his Champions League bow against Juventus.

    The clash gave the Brazilian the chance to face Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

    Guimaraes came out on top, too, playing the full 90 minutes as Lyon claimed a 1-0 first-leg lead in the last 16, with the return match yet to be played due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Ronaldo is "a guy I used to play with on video games", Guimaraes explained to UOL as he recalled an educational experience.

    "We talked in the game in Portuguese," the Lyon man said. "He said it was not a foul, and I said it was a foul.

    "I was going to ask him to swap shirts with him, but he was kind of angry. He's a guy who doesn't like to lose. This is what we have to take as an example; a guy who has won everything [but] hates to lose.

    "I want more and more to have this in my mind, being able to get the good things from these football legends, which is super important."

    Discussing his nerves ahead of the match, Guimaraes said: "I was very nervous and slept badly at night because it was my first Champions League game, as a starter and in the last 16.

    "But I thought to myself: 'If I want to be a great player, this has to be normal in my life. I have to play well against these guys.'

    "I was very focused and I felt like I was playing on the street. Obviously, you are nervous to go on the field and when you are out there you get butterflies.

    "But when the ball rolls, everything is normal. It's 11 against 11."

  • Juventus' attitude despite 'super champion' Ronaldo concerns Di Livio Juventus' attitude despite 'super champion' Ronaldo concerns Di Livio

    Former Juventus star Angelo Di Livio has been concerned by the absence of the Bianconeri's usual "unique mentality" at times this season, but talisman Cristiano Ronaldo escaped criticism.

    With the season suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, Juve are top of Serie A and playing in the last 16 of the Champions League.

    Yet Italy's defending champions have not been entirely convincing this term under Maurizio Sarri, sitting just one point clear of Lazio in the league and trailing Lyon 1-0 after the first leg of their European tie.

    Di Livio, who was part of the last Juve team to win the Champions League in 1995-96, was troubled by their approach to the Lyon game and does not consider them genuine contenders for Europe's top title.

    "Juve are still a long shot from what I have seen this season before COVID," he told Stats Perform News. "They struggled even in Serie A and they have a super Lazio just one point behind them.

    "They are at risk in Serie A as much as in the Champions League against Lyon. They have to come from behind, but I didn't like their approach.

    "Juventus boast a very unique mentality, we all know that. Whoever plays there knows exactly what to do with aggression, grit and love for the shirt.

    "This season they looked a bit prissy, but they still top the league and have a game in hand to topple Lyon."

    Di Livio is at least encouraged by Sarri's recent work at the club, although he was bemused by the departure of previous head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

    "Not many have understood this change at the helm," he said. "You have to respect a winner.

    "I hold Massimiliano Allegri in high esteem because in comparison he looks so similar to Marcello Lippi. He who wins can't be sacked. Allegri was pivotal for that and even for this Juventus.

    "Of course, good luck to Sarri, who has finally understood what it means to manage a club that has to win."

    Ronaldo, Juve's star man, is a role model for his team-mates, according to Di Livio.

    He said: "Cristiano Ronaldo always has to play. You can make him rest once every 15 games. He is admirable and it is proven by all his team-mates who get on so well with him.

    "He is a super champion. He leads by example for his working attitude, his lifestyle, never a problem. Hats off."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.