Information. In general considered a precious commodity. We love gathering it. Quantifying it. Finding interesting ways of making it work for us. Using it to enlighten ourselves or make predictions. But the sheer volume of information we have access to can at times be overwhelming, and often as not, what could be an interesting tidbit ends up as an unread tab in a browser before it is lost to the next update or a forgotten link in a perpetually expanding other bookmarks folder. Collected and neglected.
So is it seemingly also with youth players. Much has been written about how there are no surprises in football anymore, and while avoiding old-manning about how terrible that is is generally the advisable course of action, it is hard to deny the truth of it. Youth prospects get coverage from the very first time they move clubs, youth competitions get television coverage from at least the U17 level, and rarely will a prospect in his mid-to-late teens not be the subject of a horrendously scored highlight package and a handful of fictional success stories from any number of football simulators.
Expectations are set. Squad numbers assigned. Comparisons made. The latter practice makes perfect sense and is almost unavoidable. Who does he remind you of? A three-word shorthand, preferably with a famous name as the hook, to let fans know exactly how excited they should allow themselves to get over this particular teenage athlete. The Iranian Messi. The New Baresi. Beckenbauer on Meth. Or whatever.
In the case of Samuel Bastien, we seem to be heading through the looking glass, as the player he is being compared to is himself barely old enough to drive. In fact, Bastien is nearly a full year older than his alleged parallel, Youri Tielemans. They're both Belgians midfielders based at Anderlecht - home of former virtual manager favourites like Vincent Kompany and Anthony Vanden Borre - but Bastien is currently on loan at Italian mid-table Serie B side Avellino, where he is a regular starter and has scored twice in 18 appearances.
Described as a classic number eight, the former winger who now plays in central midfield and can also do a job as a defensive midfielder, displays athleticism, composure, and a willingness to make penetrating runs into the box from deeper positions. His performances in Italy have drawn the interest of Juventus, and now Liverpool are purportedly sending scouts to his matches as well. No official bid has been made and no transfer fee has been suggested.
After the predictably quiet January transfer window, this is hardly the transfer rumour to make Liverpool fans dream about brighter days coming, and it does seem like, if it were to come to pass, it would be another one for the future. It will be interesting to see how transfer business develops under Jürgen Klopp, with the manager set on keeping youth players at the club rather than loaning them out, a stark contrast to the former policy of buy em all and loan em out. Perhaps the days of tenuous links to long-shot starlets are over, ushering in the era of sure-fire starters?