The battle for Ben Woodburn’s international services

Ben Woodburn’s anticipated rise to fame has ignited a familiar battle over a young star’s international allegiance. 

November’s League Cup quarter-final win over Leeds saw the 17-year-old break Michael Owen’s record to become Liverpool’s youngest ever goal scorer. His name has refused to go away ever since.

The forward’s talent has been common knowledge amongst Liverpool fans for some time now yet those outside of the club have only recently been introduced to the excitement surrounding his potential.

Woodburn has represented Wales at U15 level all the way through to the U19s but his reputation has sparked interest from England in his international situation.

He poses as the latest young star to be subject to a fight between two nations for his services.

No one would blame him for distancing himself from such a decision at this stage in his career with Jurgen Klopp already striving to protect him from too much media attention.

Backlash towards Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish deciding to switch from playing for the Republic of Ireland to England is also sure to put Woodburn off of making a rash decision.

Former Reds boss and Wales assistant Roy Evans has hailed the Cheshire-born player and has called for urgency from the two countries competing for him.

He told BBC Sport: “You’ve got to jump in there whether you’re Chris Coleman or you’re Southgate.”

“You’ve got to jump on these players when they become available and you think they’re going to be good enough.”

“So it’ll be a little war between the two countries, I think, over this young lad because he is full of talent.”

He differs from usual academy prospects who so often try and fail to make it at the highest level. There is a feeling of realistic optimism surrounding what he is capable of with many believing he has what it takes to one day become a starter for his club and whichever country he opts to play for.

England manager Gareth Southgate has been aware of Woodburn’s quality for some time but is very respectful of his connection to the Welsh setup.

He told Wales Online: “Ethically we don’t want to get boys in too young – but other countries are going younger. And if players feel an attachment to them and their system, it becomes difficult and we’re always assessing that.”

“We’ve certainly recognised his qualities in the last couple of years.”

Too much pressure too early on will only hamper the progress of a young man with the ability to be a star at international level.

Wales’ promises to be a difficult attraction for Woodburn to turn his back on.

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