If you’re trusted to start for Lyon away to Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 16 then you must surely be something special.
It’s fair to say that Rayan Cherki, a hugely exciting prospect who can play as an attacking midfielder, on either flank and also up front, is a prodigious talent.
Cherki has already made six Ligue 1 appearances for Lyon and has been linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool, but who is he and just how far can he go? Sportsmail provides the lowdown on the youngster.
16-year-old Rayan Cherki has broken into the Lyon side this season and is an excellent prospect
Cherki has played for Lyon in the Champions League having excelled for the club at youth level
What’s his background?
Cherki was born in France on August 17, 2003 but he is also eligible to represent Italy and Algeria through his parents.
So far Cherki has played for France at youth level – he was capped twice by their U16s in 2018.
Having started out at Saint-Priest’s academy, he joined Lyon in 2010 and has progressed rapidly through the ranks at the club.
It is in the UEFA Youth League that Cherki has particularly caught the eye – he has scored four goals in three games in the competition this season.
Cherki’s form at youth level was simply too good for Lyon boss Rudi Garcia to ignore.
Despite his lack of experience, Cherki started in Lyon’s 4-2 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain
He has slowly been eased into the first-team at Lyon, featuring intermittently and being named on the bench on several occasions in the league before starting against PSG.
The Lyon academy has produced many high-profile players in recent years, including Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette, Samuel Umtiti, Anthony Martial and Nabil Fekir. Cherki could be the next to thrive in senior football.
What’s his playing style like?
As alluded to, Cherki is a versatile player, but he is perhaps most effective as an attacking midfielder.
Technically gifted and a fine dribbler, he is able to get out of difficult situations with his outstanding close control.
Furthermore, he is quick and has excellent vision to unlock defences and he also relishes the chance to go for goal himself, as demonstrated by the fact that he has scored three goals in as many appearances in the Coupe de France this season.
One of those strikes was against third-tier side FBBP 01 but he scored a quickfire double in the first 10 minutes against Nantes in the next round.
He has a penchant for playing one-twos and, for such a young player, possesses an impressive tactical understanding of the game.
Most comfortable as an attacking midfielder, Cherki is a neat passer and also a fine finisher
One aspect of Cherki’s game which needs improvement is his defensive work as he can often switch off at key moments. That, though, can surely be improved upon through coaching and experience.
Cherki also isn’t especially strong physically, but that is something that should become less of an issue as he gets older and becomes more used to the demands of senior football.
What has been said about him?
Inevitably, there has been a major buzz about Cherki in France as his stock has continued to grow.
One of his biggest compliments came from Kylian Mbappe, with the PSG forward tweeting: ‘Don’t talk too much about age’ after Cherki caught the eye against Nantes with his two goals in the Coupe de France last month.
Nantes boss Christian Gourcuff also praised Cherki, who scored two goals and set up two more in that game, with Lyon winning 4-3.
As reported by Besoccer, Gourcuff said: ‘He has a big future. He’s a very, very good footballer’.
What chance is there that a Premier League club could sign him?
As Cherki continues to impress, the speculation surrounding his future will inevitably increase.
It seems likely that he will remain with Lyon for the time being, especially if Garcia continues to give him chances to impress.
Cherki’s current contract at Lyon, which he signed last year, runs until the summer of 2022. Lyon have been trying to get him to sign fresh terms but Cherki has held off putting pen to paper as he wants the guarantee of further minutes.
The starlet is the subject of interest from Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool
In the long term it could well prove very difficult for Lyon to keep hold of Cherki, and it would be no surprise to see him leave within the next couple of years if he continues to excel.
Given his mentality as well as his quality, Cherki wouldn’t be fazed by the pressure he would be placed under if he did make a high-profile transfer.
As reported by The Mirror, both Liverpool and Manchester United are monitoring Cherki’s progress.
AS state that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane is a big fan of Cherki, indicating that English sides could face competition if they do try to sign him.
What are his international prospects?
With France having a wealth of options at their disposal, Cherki may have to be rather patient to make his senior international breakthrough and he would have to make a tremendous impact before the end of the season to be considered for Didier Deschamps’ Euro 2020 squad.
Cherki has played for France at under-16 level but is also eligible to represent Italy and Algeria
However, France will surely be determined to ensure he represents them ahead of Italy and Algeria and it could well be the case that he will be drafted in for involvement in a competitive fixture at some point next season.
Prior to that Cherki may get a call-up for one of France’s youth sides in the next international break.
What should we expect from Cherki in the remainder of this season?
Cherki showed glimpses of his quality against PSG, but he was substituted after 56 minutes and it is clear that he still has improvements to make.
He is very highly regarded by Lyon and it seems likely that he will receive plenty of further opportunities to impress between now and the end of the season, especially with the club being so determined to keep him.
It is anticipated that Cherki will feature heavily as Lyon look to persuade him to stay at the club
Cherki has been heavily involved in the Coupe de France this season and Lyon are still in that competition, with Marseille their opponents in the quarter-finals.
It appears that Cherki will feature in that game, which will provide him with another opportunity to test himself against a major side.
The rest of the season for Cherki will be about him trying to gain as much experience as possible as he looks to demonstrate that he belongs in the first-team by establishing himself in the starting lineup for Garcia’s side.