Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham’s Marcus Edwards reminds him of Messi

• ‘His qualities … it’s only looks – his body and the way that he plays’
• Edwards in line for place on bench in EFL against Gillingham

Tottenham Hotspur’s 17-year-old attacking midfield prodigy Marcus Edwards reminds Mauricio Pochettino of a young Lionel Messi and the manager is considering whether to give him a first-team debut at home against Gillingham in the EFL Cup on Wednesday night.

Pochettino has named Edwards in his matchday squad and the expectation is he will begin among the substitutes. There has long been a buzz about the diminutive left-footer with the low centre of gravity, whose favourite position is No10 and whose greatest asset is his ability to glide past opponents, and Pochettino only added to it with his comments on Tuesday. “His qualities … it’s only looks – his body and the way that he plays – remember a little bit from the beginning of Messi,” the manager said.

Pochettino’s decision to mention the teenager in the same breath as one of the all-time greats went down predictably badly with the club’s press department, which is in the business of discouraging such hyperbole. The concern would be that it needlessly places extra pressure on Edwards’s shoulders.

It is important to note that Pochettino was not predicting that Edwards would become the next Messi, merely that he has the same playing style. Then again, Edwards’ nickname at the club is “Mini Messi”, and Pochettino would not have said what he said if he did not believe that the youngster has the strength of character to cope.

Pochettino detoured, briefly, on to his memories of Érik Lamela, when the Tottenham winger was a hugely talented youth prospect at River Plate, who “took the ball, didn’t give a pass and shot straight away”. But he got back onto the subject of Edwards and he made it plain that he saw a big future for him.

“He is a very good prospect and, potentially, he can be a top player but we need to be patient and tell him that he has a lot of talent, enough talent to be a top player, a great player, but now it’s how he builds his future – that’s very important,” Pochettino said. “It’s our responsibility to tell him.”

Edwards signed a two-year professional contract at Tottenham over the summer, after a stand-off that had gripped since last December and he featured for Pochettino’s team in pre-season. He has been at the club since the age of eight and there is the hope that he can become the latest player to break through from the academy.

Pochettino will rotate his players against Gillingham, with Tottenham in the throes of a seven-game sequence in the space of 22 days and he is expected to include the 18-year-old centre-half Cameron Carter-Vickers, in the starting lineup for what would be his debut. Pochettino has extremely high hopes for the USA youth international and, as with Edwards, he was not shy about talking them up.

“For me, he can be one of the best centre-backs in England in the future,” Pochettino said. “He has a strong mentality and all the qualities for playing centre-back. Does he remind me of myself as a player? No, he is better than me. I said one of the best centre-backs in England.”

The right ankle-ligament injury that Harry Kane sustained against Sunderland on Sunday was a major topic of discussion and Pochettino’s assistant, Jesús Pérez, said that the swelling was still so severe that it was impossible to accurately scan the damage – which sounded worrying. “This is why you can’t give a time-frame [for his absence],” Pérez said, although the early estimate is one of around eight weeks.

It was put to Pérez that injured ligaments never truly healed and as the problem was to Kane’s favoured shooting foot, he was asked whether there were any long-term concerns over the striker. “Of course, it’s like an accident – never again is the car the same or never again do you know,” Perez said. “But there are no problems to recover from injuries. The ligament heals good or bad but it heals. The join adjusts from the previous injuries.”

Kane’s absence gives the summer signing, Vincent Janssen, the chance of a prolonged run in the starting XI while Pochettino is expected to give opportunities against Gillingham to the academy-developed midfielders Tom Carroll, Josh Onomah and Harry Winks. He said that another academy player, the 19-year-old striker Shayon Harrison, would have made the squad but for a groin injury. Danny Rose is still out with a hamstring problem.


David Hytner

The GuardianTramp

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