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The next…Wayne Rooney

In ‘The next…’ we try to profile talented young players in the easiest way possible, by comparing them to someone else.

If you’ve spotted a talent you think will be next, let us know who and why. You’ll finally have proof you rated someone before anyone else did.

First things first, is Theo Walcott class in FM? Yes he is. Right, now that’s out of the way…

Media hype for Southampton’s 16 year-old sensation has been heating up as of late as the player continues to run riot in the Championship, so we’d thought now would be a good time to jump on the bandwagon.

He actually began his career at the Reading academy before joining Southampton and, after skipping reserve team play altogether, Barbados-born Walcott became the Saints’ youngest ever player when he came on as a sub against Wolves aged just 16 years and 143 days. He promptly scored three goals in his first three full appearances for the club, leading to praise from everyone and their mother.

Fast (runs the 100 metres in 11.5 sec) and full of trickery he is comfortable on the wing but has been deployed mainly as a striker this season. As expected, this has lead to inevitable comparisons to Wayne Rooney who, at just 19, has somehow already made enough impact to have 16 year-olds compared to him. In fact, Stoke defender and not-at-all-a-scout Andy Wilkinson reckons Walcott is even better than Rooney was at the same age,

‘He’s a good player,’ Wilkinson said. ‘I played against Wayne Rooney at 16 and he wasn’t a touch on him. He’s a good player and I think he’ll go far in the game.’

But all has not been completely rosey for this prodigious talent, and as with every small, teenage footballing talent having lumps kicked out of him by less-talented grown men, he’s been accused of diving. After earning his side a penalty, Stoke boss Johan Boskamp accused Walcott of `play-acting’, saying he “can go on in the movies”.

Regardless, he has already attracting interest from a host of top European clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool included) – prompting Southampton to slap a 8million price tag on his head. He’s also lucky to be playing for Harry Redknapp, who knows a thing or two about developing youth, and should the lad continue his fine form through the end of the season, expect someone (Tottenham, judging by their current transfer policy) to test the south coast club’s resolve with a bid in the region of 5 million – especially if they fail to earn promotion.

Watch Theo score a goal