The unfulfilled potential of Adnan Januzaj

You’re 18 years old and the future is looking bright, very bright indeed. You play for arguably the biggest club in the world.

You’ve just signed a new five year contract with your club, raising your basic salary from £1000 to £30,000 a week to ward off interest from others, including Barcelona.

You are at the centre of an international tug of war. The English Red Tops clamour for you not to commit to another nation in order to complete the required residency to play for England.

You’re told you’re special. You might be entitled to think you’ve made it, despite the fact that you’ve only played a handful of first team games for your club.

Your name is Adnan Januzaj. There is a lot of pressure and a lot to contend with.

At the time Michael Carrick said:

It is a lot for a young lad to take to come in like that. The attention he is going to get now will be a lot. He is young, he is going to learn along the way and learn fast. I am sure he will be fine. Young lads can come in and change.

Their life can change overnight and the expectations and pressures change. There are more responsibilities. But he is at the right place and he has a good attitude. He is going to stay on the right lines.

I and the other experienced players are there to set an example and do the right things. He is at the right club. He has the right players around him who are willing to help him and obviously the right manager.

He has the ability. As long as he keeps along the right lines and does the right things he has got a great chance of having one of the best careers.

The rest of that season may have just seemed to confirm everything in the young man’s mind.

Four goals, four assists; nearly 40 appearances spread across the Premier League, domestic cups and Champions League.

Things could only get better. Except they didn’t.

Carrick’s statement was undoubtedly well-intentioned but with the team struggling, players struggling and the manager under pressure, how much time could be given to one young player may be open to question.

Januzaj’s performances were inconsistent, though this is not necessarily unnatural for a young player, in and out of the team whilst developing.

The argument was being put forward that the player’s prominence was down to flashes of brilliance hiding the inconsistencies in what was a mundane team.

United’s poor performances led to David Moyes being sacked.

Despite committing to Belgium in time for the 2014 World Cup [and going] there appears some resistance to the inclusion.

The national squad is blossoming and there are better and more talented players already in your position; in some quarters there is acknowledgement that for your club you are yet to be genuinely consistent.

The phrase hype and hyperbole over hard work is used.

This was also the issue of the public and sometimes heated arguments in the media between the Belgium national coach, Marc Wilmots and your father, Abedin. According to Het Nieuwsblad, Abedin’s word was law.

As a father, Abedin was not only very protective but demanding of Adnan, driving him on to become better and better even from a tender age.

His influence was prominent and this influence may have led to conflict with Wilmots.

By the start of next season, Louis van Gaal was in place at United – a manager with a history of giving young players there chance. Januzaj was given the number 11 shirt of Ryan Giggs.

However, under Van Gaal, United went on a spending spree – Bastien Schweinsteiger, Radamel Falcao and Ander Herrera among others.

Importantly for Januzaj, he was now also competing against Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay.

That all important second season saw only 18 league appearances for the youngster.

Rarely in the team, unable to make an impact when he was, understandably Januzaj struggled.

The 2015/16 season saw Januzaj still in Van Gaal’s plans even starting the season with a few appearances.

However, Januzaj was soon shipped to Borussia Dortmund on loan to gain first team experience.

On the surface the move may have looked a good fit. An exciting team for a young player under a new manager, Thomas Tuchel.

However, Tuchel had the onerous task of replacing Jurgen Klopp, was moving on some club legends in Jakub Blaszczykowski and Kevin Grosskreutz as well as bringing his own style of football.

Tuchel had a reputation for taxing his players in training to come to terms with his flexibility in tactics and formation.

Within this, Tuchel still favoured the Gengenpress and was also a believer of a more possession based approach.

Januzaj’s defensive contribution, discipline and passing would not perhaps be considered the strengths of his game.

The loan spell was a disaster; six substitute appearances before being cut short in January.

The difference between Januzaj’s strengths and Tuchel’s tactical approach would question the wisdom of the loan – or who sanctioned the loan in BvB.

The failure of the loan though was laid firmly at the feet of Januzaj though with the youngster being lambasted by Tuchel for his poor attitude and desire.

Back at United with lack of games, lack of fitness the player barely featured.

Last season, David Moyes now at Sunderland came calling to take Januzaj on loan.

he message though was that new United manager, Jose Mourinho was happy for the loan to go through due to the player’s “relaxed” attitude in training with Januzaj sources saying the player felt humiliated by United’s treatment of him. Moyes acknowledged the risk:

I’ve said to Adnan, you need to stop blaming everyone else for what’s gone wrong. This loan’s a little bit of a risk.

I’ve told Adnan to look at himself and realise that it’s down to him to change it; it can’t always be the manager’s fault or the coach’s fault that he hasn’t progressed.

Adnan’s got to ask has he prepared right, has he got himself in the best condition, has he trained well enough? And, when he’s got his opportunity, has he played well enough? In a lot of cases the answer has to be ‘no’.

However, Januzaj did not impress at The Black Cats in what was a season of struggle culminating in relegation.

Januzaj at times himself suffering jeers of the Sunderland fans.

Now Mourinho appears to have confirmed Januzaj is no longer in his plans and the strong rumours are linking the player to Real Sociedad for around £10 m.

This may appear a gamble by Sociedad’s manager, Eusebio Sacristan. Again this is a team that employs the high press, that likes to play possession football, though under Sacristan, Sociedad do like to attack down the wings.

Perhaps ultimately if Januzaj joins the Basque team whether the transfer is successful will depend on his attitude.

There have been too many managers questioning/blaming the player’s attitude for there not to be truth in this. The same managers who demand hard work.

Poor attitude, perhaps poor advice; the suggestion that everyone is to blame except him from Moyes himself, the one manager who put his trust in the player.

Januzaj has always had the potential, it would be a shame if the highlight of his career were to be that United debut.

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Alan Robins
Alan Robins

Love all things football. Blogger. Views my own

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