Marcus Edwards shows what Tottenham and the Premier League missed out on

“If another player had done that, we would have talked about it for a long time,” said Sporting CP goalkeeper Antonio Adan. They’d been talking about it for a while anyway.

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“Magic,” wrote the Record newspaper. “Artistic,” O Jogo wanted. “Transcendent” is what A Bola called the moment when 39,899 people stood up, unable to believe what they had just seen but really glad they did: a Maradona in their midst. The kind of moment that unfolds, viewers become witnesses, drawn to it, destined to always talk about it. Each part more absurd, building on the last: didn’t he?! He does not have?! He couldn’t, could he?

In the end he couldn’t. At least not points. Which somehow would have made it even better. Okay, not better exactly, but you get the point. If it was art, it became art for its own sake, not ending in a goal. And suddenly everyone was talking about it. Perhaps transcendent really is the right word; it transcended that place and transcended the game, that gate that didn’t exist. Those within the community felt it; You’ve probably already seen it. When Marcus Edwards, the boy they called Mini Messi, was a Maradonian.

There had been a roar as Edwards showed a sharp spin and quick feet during Sporting’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur this week. But this was different. It was more like an oh, an ah and what the heck, the breath held, the supporters gaped and stood to deliver an ovation.

“You see him there and you think ‘he can’t get out of there,’ and he comes out,” one report said. “You see him running to the ball and you think ‘he can’t make it’ and he makes it.”

– O’Hanlon: Champions League field ranking from 32 to 1 (E+)

Edwards picked the ball up in the middle of the field, turned and hit Eric Dier, not just once but twice, going past him on one side and back past him on the other, also past Ivan Perisic, hips swinging. He played it to Francisco Trincao and got it back, sliding past Cristian Romero and then, five yards away…missing. The ball, pushed towards goal from so close, somehow went wide of the post by Hugo Lloris, whom he hit twice.

“He almost scored a historic goal golazo‘ said Adan, giggling as he imagined it again. It was one of those: one of those when you feel like laughing.

It wasn’t just a moment either. Not just his 15 minutes of fame – and consistency is of course the challenge. Edwards was great throughout the game, as he was in the opening game week, a 3-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt, when he provided an assist and scored a goal, netting three goals in seven games. That was special though: against the club he’d joined aged 8 but where, if you speak of those minutes, he’d only played 15 in the League Cup against Gillingham.

Incidentally, the man he’d beaten twice had started his career here: Dier’s family had moved to Portugal when his mother got a job at Euro 2004.

Edwards was always special, they knew that. His first professional contract was bigger than they had ever given to a child and it had been a struggle: for a long time it seemed they were going to lose it and that was already a worrying prospect. This kid would be a star.

Born in Enfield, north London, very much Tottenham territory, just 5ft 6 tall and enormously talented, left footed, the most gifted of his generation, Edwards had been given the title ‘Mini Messi’ for a reason.

Mind you, then-manager Mauricio Pochettino was trying to take a step away from making it above his level to burden him with that responsibility. Like he was aware from the moment it came out of his mouth that maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say. “His qualities… it’s just the looks, his body and the way he plays… reminds a bit of Messi’s early days,” said Pochettino. That was September 2016 and the next day Edwards made his debut at the age of 17. He no longer played for Spurs.

There was a loan at Norwich, just one game. A year in Rotterdam. Then the move to Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal, where it all started off well: 85 games and 20 goals in two and a half seasons before Sporting signed him for £7.5million last January. “We did good business,” said Sporting coach Ruben Amorim this week with a smile. Inevitably, all too easily, people are now asking if maybe Spurs didn’t.

“He’s a very good candidate and maybe he can become a top player but we have to be patient and tell him he has a lot of talent, enough talent to be a top player, a great player but now he is it like that.” he is building his future. That’s very important,” Pochettino said at the time, on the eve of his professional debut, his first and last game for Spurs.

There was an injury and Pochettino also later admitted there were issues with authority and behavior. There was evidence that Edwards is a man in his own right, perhaps shy or distant, not always as committed to others as they would like – and that was echoed in Lisbon. It was about the person as well as the player.

Its ever. If that was obvious then when you listen to those around you, it still is today. How could it be any different? “We’re human and that’s forgotten: it’s like we’re machines and we have to go out there and do what fans and journalists want us to do,” Adan said Tuesday night while speaking about his teammate. “We often forget that personal element.”

That’s always there; it never goes away completely. “He needed a little time to adapt to Portugal but he has adapted,” added his amorim. “Lisbon is not London; it’s different and all of that has an impact, but he has the talent. He can get a lot better, he can even make the England team. He just needs to focus more – not just on training but on everything.” around it. Football isn’t just a game, it’s everything in between. I trust him a lot, I know he can grow a lot.”

When asked about that allegation Tuesday night, Edwards insisted he didn’t even think about it. But he would like to play for England? “Yes, it would be nice,” he said, and soon others were echoing it, having just seen this English boy move abroad and tear up his old team. They wondered what could have been and what could still be.

“Talent, class and lots of magic,” said A Bola, “a tireless little ant who isn’t just aggressive, but also gives everything on defense. It was a show worth millions.” Hugo Lloris had seen it up close. Somehow, even he doesn’t know how, he had prevented Edwards from scoring what would surely have been his best goal of the season already.

“He’s more mature now, he’s 23 years old and he has the same quality that we saw a few years ago when he was training with the first team,” said Lloris. “He has the perfect profile to play for this type of team. If he continues like this he will have a bright future.”

When asked to define him, Adan shot back, “Different.”

He added: “Marcus gives us the ability to walk past people, change a game, take over people, break lines. He runs very well with the ball and he’s in a fantastic moment in terms of confidence. He has come into a group that is good for him, a young group with people who help him to be more involved, to engage him with us.

“He’s also really contributing. He talks to us a lot and that means he’s happy with what’s showing on the pitch. What you see on the pitch reflects the way people are off the pitch. And I think he’s happy now.” He also has the manager’s faith and confidence to try these things.”

There was a smile. “And he almost scores a goal which is… historic, a golazo. It was fantastic, we enjoyed it and we’re lucky to have a player like Marcus.” Marcus Edwards shows what Tottenham and the Premier League missed out on

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