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Joe Strange - Jack Wilshere comes of age against Barcelona

Published: 17 Feb 2011 - 13:40:15

From Bolton Wanderers to beating Barcelona, the last year of Jack Wilshere's career reads more like a fairytale than the life story of a boy still only 19-years-old.

But this is not a story penned by the Brothers Grimm. Last night the young Englishman delivered a performance which defied his tender years, matching - and at times outplaying - some of the finest players in world football. Players who not only challenge for the Ballon d'Or today, but those who will go down in history as some of the greatest of all time.

That's no hyperbole. Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi all took to the field for Barcelona yesterday evening and all three of them will have left thinking exactly the same. "That number nineteen is going to be some player."

And what a player he already is. A seemingly telepathic footballing brain perfectly complimented by a deft first touch and exquisite range of passing. Limitless energy and bite in the tackle, only enhanced by a fierce desire to win and belief in his own ability.

Admittedly, Jack is not yet the finished article. Occasionally his inexperience and youthful exuberance shine through, opening the door to rash challenges and fiery exchanges with opponents. Fortunately for the Arsenal faithful, Arsene Wenger provides Wilshere with the perfect mentor to harness and develop his prodigious talent over the coming years.

On last night's viewing, Le Profeseur might not have too much work to do. A graduate of Arsenal's prolific academy system, Wilshere's football education was clear for all to see against the Catalan giants, his incisive passing and ability to find space providing World Cup winner Sergio Busquets with an uncharacteristically difficult 90 minutes.

Up against the best side in the world in Europe's elite club competition, it would have been easy for the former Bolton loanee to go missing, after all, it was only little over a year ago that Wenger deemed him surplus to requirements in Arsenal's title-chasing run-in.

An invaluable stint at the Reebok followed, with highly-rated boss Owen Coyle allowing Wilshere a regular taste of Premier League action. And what good it's done. Now an established part of Wenger's midfield, Wilshere can also count Fabio Capello among his growing list of admirers after recent call-ups to the England squad.

The Italian handed Wilshere his first start against Denmark last week and he didn't fail to impress, looking comfortable and confident in the heart of England's midfield alongside stand-in skipper Frank Lampard. Few players could adjust to senior international football so quickly, let alone someone of his age. But Wilshere is clearly no ordinary player.

Just as he did for England last week, Jack relished the task put in front of him last night. His brilliant all-round performance only punctuated with moments of genuine class that even his direct opposition - Xavi and Iniesta- would've been proud of. He even outshone his team-mate and the player Barcelona covet the most, Cesc Fabregas.

And who knows, if Wilshere continues to progress as he has done over the past 12 months, then it could well be he who sits atop the wishlists of Europe's biggest clubs in years to come.

Follow me on Twitter @joe_strange

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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