Tag Archives: prodigy

Wayne Rooney remains an England enigma, 10 years after his spectacular start

Decade of hit and miss: Rooney remains an England enigma, 10 years after his spectacular start

but was his
first goal at a major international tournament for eight years.

Red mist: Rooney was sent off last time he played in Montenegro

Red mist: Rooney was sent off last time he played in Montenegro

Heads we win: Rooney returned to the team after suspension to score against Ukraine

Heads we win: Rooney returned to the team after suspension to score against Ukraine

Samba beaten: Rooney also scored in last month's friendly victory over Brazil

Samba beaten: Rooney also scored in last month's friendly victory over Brazil

Unfortunately, the red cards against Portugal and Montenegro spring more readily to mind.

He compares well with Owen, another teenage prodigy. Rooney has seven fewer goals in 10 fewer games, a ratio he should be confident of boosting tomorrow against San Marino, ranked the world’s worst international team by FIFA.

Beyond this, Rooney’s contribution cannot simply be calculated by goals. He has been up front alone, in a pair, in the hole off the front man and, occasionally, wide. You can even throw in the odd cameo in midfield.

He craves involvement, ever willing to do a job in a different system. It is still the way at Manchester United. Picked against Real Madrid away, he was dropped at home. Is this evidence of his slow conversion from playmaker to workhorse

Workhorse Are Rooney's talents being wasted

Workhorse Are Rooney's talents being wasted

Superstar: Rooney was the sensation of the tournament at Euro 2004

Superstar: Rooney was the sensation of the tournament at Euro 2004

New hero: Rooney's emergence suggested England possessed a world beater

New hero: Rooney's emergence suggested England possessed a world beater

International awakening: Rooney also excelled a year before that, on his competitive debut against Turkey

International awakening: Rooney also excelled a year before that, on his competitive debut against Turkey

Time to celebrate: Rooney has been a regular for England since that star turn against Turkey

Time to celebrate: Rooney has been a regular for England since that star turn against Turkey

Fabio Capello perhaps came closer than others to unlocking the secret for England. Rooney scored half of his 24 competitive England goals for Capello. Nine of them came in nine qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, playing up front with Emile Heskey.

But he travelled to South Africa with questions surrounding his fitness and, it would later emerge, his head in a spin from personal issues.

Under the pressure of comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he cut an angry figure, swearing at a female linesman in a practice match, scrawling abusive messages on his golf shoes and sounding off into a TV camera about England fans who booed the team after a goalless draw against Algeria.

Rooney went a year without a goal for England while strike partners came and went: Bobby Zamora, Peter Crouch, Darren Bent, Kevin Davies, Ashley Young, Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have all had a go since the last World Cup.

Out of form: Ashley Young

Out of form: Ashley Young

Good foil Danny Welbeck

Good foil Danny Welbeck

Forgotten man: Darren Bent

Forgotten man: Darren Bent

When Hodgson took the job last year, he was unequivocal about his star man. ‘We all know Rooney is best as a No 10,’ he said.

‘The fact he’s such a good player and can play in other positions, that’s another matter. From my conversations with him, from all the games I’ve watched him play, he’s extremely dangerous as a second striker.’

Last month, in a friendly against Brazil, Rooney was the spearhead in a 4-3-3 shape designed to accommodate Jack Wilshere. The experiment worked well and the most encouraging aspect of the 2-1 victory was the way that Wilshere, Rooney and Tom Cleverley combined.

Will Hodgson stick to this shape with Wilshere injured or take a step back In two qualifiers with Rooney available in this World Cup campaign, he played in tandem with Welbeck against San Marino and Jermain Defoe in Poland.

Missing link: England are to be without Jack Wilshere

Missing link: England are to be without Jack Wilshere

Again, his flexibility does not help Rooney stamp his identity on an England team.

Gerrard may sympathise — it has happened to him too — and will have his own views on why the 17-year-old who made such an impact on his full England debut did not break into the world elite where Messi and Ronaldo reside.

At 27, Rooney can still leave his mark on international football and paste new images over those red-mist moments with some unforgettable goals.

Where better to start than San Marino Where better to prove a point on Tuesday than Montenegro, scene of his last England meltdown Where better to make an impression than a World Cup in Brazil

VIDEO: SCOTT PARKER DISCUSSES ENGLAND V SAN MARINO

Rory McIlroy"s year to remember has just one major blip – Derek Lawrenson

McIlroy's year to remember has just one major blip

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 19 November 2012

The fact he will be receiving end-of-season awards left, right and centre says everything about Rory McIlroy's wonderful campaign. But, on the eve of the grand finale at the Dubai World Championship, does his stellar year rank as the best ever by a European golfer

It is certainly right up there. It is better than any managed by Colin Montgomerie, for example, and he won eight orders of merit. Better than any mustered by Lee Westwood, and he won six tournaments in 2000.

Not even some of the greats of the past could claim a season like Rory's. A major, and finishing No 1 on both sides of the Atlantic Bernhard Langer never had a season like that. Neither did Ian Woosnam, during some admittedly great years from 1987 to 1991.

Year of years: Rory McIlroy has tasted success on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012

Year of years: Rory McIlroy has tasted success on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012

More from Derek Lawrenson…

EXCLUSIVE: Westwood ditches injured caddie Foster and gives job to Kerr
15/11/12

Rory checks out with double top as McIlroy follows in Donald's footsteps
11/11/12

Fourteen-year-old Chinese schoolboy Guan earns place at Masters by winning Asia-Pacific Championship
04/11/12

Fourteen-year-old Chinese prodigy in line to win place at the Masters next year
02/11/12

Rory's 156m deal with Nike cleared to go as Titleist admit they won't renew contract
30/10/12

Rose almost 1m richer after invoking Ryder Cup miracle to beat Westwood in Turkey
12/10/12

Rose and Westwood face final showdown as beach boy McIlroy enjoys 187,000 break
11/10/12

Thunder blow to McIlroy's Turkey hopes and soaks beach trip plans with Wozniacki
10/10/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

What about the outgoing Ryder Cup captain, Jose Maria Olazabal In 1994 he won the Masters, Europe's flagship event at Wentworth, and ran away with the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. But better than a major, two money list titles plus a couple of other big wins

Let's salute Sandy Lyle and what he achieved in 1988. Three wins in America, including the Masters, and two big wins in Europe at the British Masters and the World Match Play Championship. But does fifth on the European order of merit and seventh in America stand muster against numero uno on both tours

Then there's Seve. In 1983 he won the Masters plus regular tournament victories on three different continents. It was the year he first starred in the Ryder Cup. But his annus mirabilus still ranks a hair's breath below a year McIlroy started by becoming world No 1 at the age of just 22 and finished head and shoulders above the No 2, Luke Donald.

So to the top three. We've got Rory. We've got Sir Nick Faldo in 1990. And we've got Padraig Harrington in 2008. In terms of consistency, it isn't a contest. Faldo only managed half a dozen top 10s all year in 1990; McIlroy had 10 in America alone. In 2008, Harrington had only two top 10s in 14 starts in Europe; McIlroy had more than that by March.

But it isn't just about consistency at their level, is it If you asked McIlroy would he swap his season for either of the other two contenders, he'd snap your hand off. That, of course, is because they each won two majors during their year of years, with Faldo winning the Masters and the Open, and Harrington the Open and the PGA.

Trip down memory lane: Faldo finished third in the US Open in 1990, and won in Hong Kong

Trip down Memory Lane: Faldo won the Masters and the Open in 1990

Third on the list of all-time great seasons for McIlroy, then, with the exciting thought there is room for improvement. What about that stodgy middle when he was distracted, and how much better will he be when he trims his schedule from 26 events to a more manageable 22 My hunch is he might have three of the top five all-time great seasons by the time he is through.

As for the current top two, let's give the nod to Sir Nick, who also finished third in the US Open in 1990, and won in Hong Kong.

Westwood taking American Dream seriously

No-one can say there's anything half-hearted about Lee Westwood's impending move to America. He will leave these shores in the middle of next month to defend the Thailand Open. The next time he will touch down on British soil will be the middle of May.

On the move: Westwood won't touch down in Britain until the middle of May

On the move: Westwood won't touch down in Britain until the middle of May

Quote of the Week

'Today was the difference between going back to the Challenge Tour or staying on the European Tour and it was probably the most stressful day of my life. But to pull it off and stay on the main tour, it feels better than a win.'

Highly-rated Englishman Tommy Fleetwood might not have fulfilled his promise this year but the gutsy manner in which he kept his card in South Africa on Sunday suggests that the man who was my 'one to watch' this season really will be worth keeping an eye on in 2013.

Henrik proves class is permanent

Not a great weekend for the doomsayers who think the European Tour is a busted flush. One week after a victory for 19 year old Matteo Manassero, Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is almost 30 years his senior, won in Hong Kong to become the oldest winner. Then there was a win in South Africa for another of the tour's great characters, Henrik Stenson.

Success: Henrik Stenson won in South Africa

Success: Henrik Stenson won in South Africa

Not too many come back from completely misplacing their muse, in the manner that Lee Westwood did, or Paul Lawrie. But Stenson is well on his way to completing his second comeback from the dead.

The first time he went from almost literally not being able to keep the ball on a golf course to the world's top five. This time, he's fighting back after losing millions in the Allen Stanford financial scandal. Last year he played more than a dozen events on each of the two main tours and managed just one top-10 finish. Now he's got his first win in over three years.

His career might be the embodiment of that time-honoured saying: form is temporary but class is permanent.

Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlong in line to win place at the Masters

Fourteen-year-old Chinese prodigy in line to win place at the Masters next year

|

UPDATED:

14:45 GMT, 2 November 2012

Could a 14-year-old be playing in the Masters next year That amazing possibility has moved firmly into view after Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang opened up a five stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand.

The event is backed by Augusta National Golf Club and draws the best amateurs from all over Asia and beyond, drawn by the irresistible lure of a place in the field at the Masters that goes to the winner.

After opening with a wonderful 66, everyone wondered whether the slightly built Guan, who only turned 14 last week, would succumb to stage fright in Friday's second round. He certainly answered that one with a stunning 64 to spread eagle the field.

Unmistakable: The beautiful Augusta National Golf Club, host of The Masters, which was won by American Bubba Watson (below) this year

Unmistakable: The beautiful Augusta National Golf Club, host of The
Masters, which was won by Bubba Watson (below) in an emotional triumph this year

Unmistakable: The beautiful Augusta National Golf Club, host of The Masters, which was won by American Bubba Watson (below) this year

'My goal was to come here and win and go to the Masters but I know there is a long way to go and it will be far from easy,' said Guan. 'I'm not thinking that far ahead because I know there are so many good players here.'

An indication of the prestige of the event is illustrated by the fact 36 different nations are represented among the 120 player field.

Guan first came to public attention last April when he made European Tour history by becoming the youngest player to play in a full-field event when he competed in the Volvo China Open. The way he is going, he will be making headlines all around the world next April as well.

At present the youngest player to compete in the game's youngest major is Matteo Manassero who, just for good measure, went on to make the halfway cut as well at the 2010 Masters aged 16.

At the United States Open last year, 14 year old Andy Zhang came through qualifying to become the youngest player to compete in a major since Young Tom Morris – a month younger than Zhang – strode on to the Prestwick links as one of 13 competitors in the 1865 Open.

If Guan manages to hold on and win this weekend, he will be younger than Zhang but older than Morris.

Teen dream: Andy Zhang at the US Open

Teen dream: Andy Zhang at the US Open

The teenagers are taking over!

Andy Zhang, another 14-year-old, became the youngest player to compete in a major championship since 1865 when he teed up at the US Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco in June.

Zhang was born in China, but made in America. A golf coach spotted him on a scouting mission in China and, at the age of 10, Zhang and his family moved to Florida and David Leadbetter’s academy.

Sadly, Zhang missed the cut at the Olympic Club after rounds of 79 and 78.

But he'll be back…

Raheem Sterling is proving his worth at Liverpool

Rodgers banks on value of Sterling as youngster nets first Liverpool goal

|

UPDATED:

21:47 GMT, 21 October 2012

One of football’s biggest stages already looks like the perfect home for Raheem Sterling’s dazzling skills, but the screen is proving a different matter.

Less than 24 hours before capping another impressive performance with a match- winning goal, Anfield’s teenage prodigy was being taken to task by Brendan Rodgers on the Channel Five documentary Being: Liverpool.

The series started with Rodgers interrupting a pre- season training ground pep-talk in America, fixing Sterling with an icy glare and telling him: ‘Say steady to me again, and you’ll be on the first plane home.’

Golden goal: Raheem Sterling is congratulated after his goal

Golden goal: Raheem Sterling is congratulated after his goal

In Friday night’s instalment, there was a half-time rebuke for the 17-year-old for over- elaborating in the 2-2 home draw with Manchester City.

If those TV transgressions suggest Liverpool’s England Under 21 winger may be trouble, nothing could be further from the truth, according to Rodgers.

Reflecting on Sterling becoming the second youngest top-flight scorer in Liverpool history, and the televised ticking-off that preceded it, the Anfield manager opened up on his methods for keeping him in check.

Red leaves them dead: Sterling outpaced the Reading defence and blasted home with aplomb

Red leaves them dead: Sterling outpaced the Reading defence and blasted home with aplomb

‘You could call it tough love with Raheem, but I always offer the players the carrot, because there’s no-one in this world who responds to being beaten with a stick all the time,’ he said. ‘That’s the case in any industry, football or whatever, but Raheem is the type who likes you to be direct.

‘He likes to be told. He is a great boy, a really good kid. His mum does a great job with him, and he handles everything about the situation really well.

‘At 17, he’s still got an awful long way to go, so it’s important I try to manage him properly. We want to have him here as a legend for many years. We don’t want him getting carried away with all the adulation and then find, at 21, he’s washed up and everyone wants him out.

Give youth a chance: Sterling scored his first goal for Liverpool to secure a vital home win

Give youth a chance: Sterling scored his first goal for Liverpool to secure a vital home win

‘The biggest thing with me is just maintaining the hunger that he’s got now, because you see when he’s got that, and he’s learning and developing, that he can be a really top player. It’s a long way to go for him but, up to now, he’s been a revelation.

At the moment there are no worries about how he is responding. I talk to the players a lot about the good and the bad and just try to keep them developing.

‘Right up until now, Raheem has been brilliant. He’s got a lovely way about him. He’s made the transition from the academy very well, and it’s brilliant for the supporters, because they love to see young players come in and do so well. We will be doing our utmost to make sure that it continues.’

Sterling’s crisp finish may have secured Liverpool’s first home Barclays Premier League win of the season, but the biggest cheer of the afternoon went to referee Roger East’s decision to award Luis Suarez a free-kick on the edge of the area in the 38th minute.

After the number of times Suarez has looked up in vain at an official after hitting the deck, it was greeted with a prolonged standing ovation.

‘That was brilliant,’ said Rodgers. ‘I must admit I had a nice laugh and I think it lifted the players as well.

‘It was one of those funny moments you won’t forget in a hurry. Was I tempted to join in I think I probably did!

Mathew Tait"s return is like a new player for Leicester: World of Rugby

Tait's style is a welcome change from big hitters

|

UPDATED:

22:02 GMT, 4 October 2012

For Leicester, it must be like having an exciting new signing — a dangerous attacking talent, young and English. For Mathew Tait, it surely feels like the start of a whole new career.

On Monday, the 26-year-old took part in a match again, which would have been a joyous novelty. And he scored a try too, which undoubtedly stirred distant memories of better days gone by.

It is almost a year since Tait last played. Soon after joining the Tigers from Sale, he was struck down by a groin injury and condemned to a prolonged spell of inactivity.

To hell and back: Mathew Tait has been out injured for almost a year

To hell and back: Mathew Tait has been out injured for almost a year

Learning to fly provided an outlet for his frustration and quite possibly saved his sanity.

Now, at long last, the one-time Newcastle prodigy has made his comeback, in an ‘A’-team game against Worcester, at Welford Road.

One burst of his fabled pace on a familiar outside break led to his second-half try, soon followed by removal from the firing line.

More from Chris Foy…

Chris Foy: This legacy could make kids losers
27/09/12

Chris Foy: Where there's a Bill there's a way to sort out TV row
20/09/12

Chris Foy: Fans don't seem part of this Vision for the future
13/09/12

Chris Foy: Toulon say Non to letting Jenkins fly with the Lions
06/09/12

World of Rugby: Thanks for the warm-up, now the Lions must roar
30/08/12

Chris Foy: London Welsh have grounds to be upset over promotion sham
24/05/12

Chris Foy: Law changes show IRB are going with the flow
17/05/12

World of Rugby: Richards will be forgiven if he gets Falcons flying
10/05/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

For the time being, the aim is to steadily coax his body back into the rigours of regular, high-intensity action. But in time, the Tigers must hope that Tait can add a different dimension to their game.

The same goes for England, for this is a rare talent who had seemed in grave danger of going to waste.

Tait was 18 when he made a Test debut in Cardiff in 2005. But after being brutally tossed around by Gavin Henson, he was cruelly tossed aside by the then national coach, Andy Robinson. That led to positional shifts, and a loss of form and self-belief.

Yet along the way he has won 38 caps and despite the rough treatment, crises of confidence and injuries, he has caught the eye.

New Zealand’s acclaimed Sevens coach, Gordon Tietjens, saw Tait running amok during the 2006 Commonwealth Games and pronounced that had he been a Kiwi, he would have played 50 Tests for the All Blacks by then.

In the 2007 World Cup final, which England lost to South Africa, it was Tait’s scorching break which led to Mark Cueto’s famous, ruled-out ‘try’. In that instant, he showed a glimpse of his class as a high-octane strike runner.

These days, so much emphasis is on bulk and off-loading prowess, yet if Tait can hit his stride again, he is too good for England to ignore.

While the game is dominated by the crash-bash-release routine, there still must be scope for guile and nimble, elusive qualities.

It would be a wondrous sight to observe this faded, almost lost star shining anew.

Pumas go in search of historic win over Wallabies

It could be a perfect storm. Australia face Argentina in Rosario on Saturday, decimated by injuries and with their head coach under siege following last weekend’s abject 31-8 defeat by the Springboks.

Quade Cooper’s public trashing of the regime has been an unwelcome circus sideshow and the Pumas are on the rebound after being thrashed by New Zealand, which will make them even more dangerous.

Side show: Quade Cooper has caused unwelcome pressure on the Australians after his outburst

Side show: Quade Cooper has caused unwelcome pressure on the Australians after his outburst

It would be no surprise if this Rugby Championship decider culminated in an historic home win.

And if so, it would be no surprise if Robbie Deans is sacked, leaving the Wallabies on the look-out for a new coach just nine months before they confront the Lions.

O’Shea could give us Rome comfort

At The Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup launch on Monday, politics dominated discussions.

With the next meeting of ERC stakeholders looming in Rome three days from now, when the TV rights war which is threatening the future of European competition will top the agenda, it became apparent that Conor O’Shea should be sent in to mediate.

As an Irishman working in England, Harlequins’ director of rugby has ample perspective and a knack for diplomacy from his previous role in high-level sports administration.

Send him to Rome: Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea proved himself to be a perfect diplomat

Send him to Rome: Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea proved himself to be a perfect diplomat

He offered a robust argument in favour of the salary cap — citing Arsenal’s book-balancing act in football and the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy in his own country.

Send him to Rome and there could be a way out of this mess. Instead, it is destined to rumble on for months, although, when asked about the prospect of continental events going ahead without the mutinous English, ERC chief executive Derek McGrath said: ‘It is almost unthinkable that could happen.’

There appears to be an increasing willingness to consider reform of the divisive qualification format, but as for the rival TV deals — that thorny issue will be much harder to unravel.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 1

'My home life is wrecked by this s**t' – Jonny Wilkinson concedes that
the ongoing 'battle' in his mind, stemming from a fervent dedication to
his profession, does not always lead to domestic bliss in the south of
France.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 2

'I was awe-struck by the Olympics. I got the spikes out and started
running on the track. I had the high knee-lift and saw myself as Usain
Bolt. I was like a little kid again' – Wilkinson on his personal Olympic
legacy.

The Last Word

Someone must convince Mike Phillips to go teetotal for a while. Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, should demand that he steers clear of alcohol for 10 months.

That way, the troubled Bayonne scrum-half could concentrate on playing rugby, which he’s rather good at when his heart and soul are in it. In fact, he’s world class when he’s on-song and off the booze.

But his short, sharp suspension and public rebuke from his French club over another late-night outing, following a recent Top 14 defeat, shone a light on his failings.

Keep off the booze: Bayonne's scrum-half Mike Phillips should stop drinking to keep his British Lions chances alive

Keep off the booze: Bayonne's scrum-half Mike Phillips should stop drinking to keep his British Lions chances alive

Phillips has been in far more than his fair share of nocturnal scrapes in Cardiff and now he’s exporting his bad habits, but at 30 he should have learned to clean up his act by now. And in this Lions year he should be on his toes rather than on the tiles.

He may have been the first-choice Test scrum-half in 2009 but this time he will need to be at the peak of his powers to see off the dual English challenge from Ben Youngs and Danny Care.

Everton plan to loan out Ross Barkley

Everton boss Moyes plans to loan out teenage prodigy Barkley

|

UPDATED:

21:55 GMT, 17 August 2012

David Moyes will send Ross Barkley on loan in a bid to accelerate the young midfielder's rise into Everton's first team.

Moyes will keep the 18- year-old as
cover until the transfer window closes but will then let him leave on
loan, with Sheffield Wednesday the most probable destination.

Up and coming: David Moyes wants Ross Barkley to gain some valuable experience

Up and coming: David Moyes wants Ross Barkley to gain some valuable experience

Moyes said: 'I'm thinking about getting him some Championship experience maybe in the coming month or two. I can't do it right now until the squad is strong enough. I want him to go out and play. It seems right.

'I remember David Beckham coming to play when I was at Preston. You've got to remember Ross is still a boy.'

Jodie Williams forced out of 100m with injury

Agony for 'Moneylegs' Williams as injury forces her out of 100m

|

UPDATED:

19:17 GMT, 23 June 2012

Jodie Williams's Olympic dream came to a public and emotional end, with the sprint prodigy breaking down in tears and curling into a ball on the track after pulling a hamstring in the 100m final at the Aviva trials.

Williams, whose record-breaking exploits as a junior led to her nickname Moneylegs, was taking part in her first senior trials in Birmingham.

After labouring through her semi-final earlier in the day, Williams, 18, said: 'I'd be gutted to miss out on the Olympics. It has been my dream since I was five.

'It is a home Games as well, which makes it even more special.'

Tears: Jodie Williams couldn't hide her disappointment after pulling up in the women's 100m

Tears: Jodie Williams couldn't hide her disappointment after pulling up in the women's 100m

Williams, both legs heavily strapped, looked to be struggling out of the blocks in the final but powered through before crumpling into a heap 30 metres from the finish.

Her mother, Christine, sat helpless in the stands, wiping tears from her face as her 18-year-old daughter sobbed on the track. Her younger sister, Hannah, was also visibly upset.

Fellow sprinter Asha Phillip acted as a crutch for Williams as she limped from the track.

Breaking down: Williams had a day to forget in Birmingham on Saturday

Breaking down: Williams had a day to forget in Birmingham on Saturday

Williams’s stunning junior career, in which she went 151 races unbeaten, has been scrutinised from all quarters. UK Athletics head coach Charles Van Commenee wanted to take her to the World Championships in Daegu last year but her coach, Mike McFarlane, said she was too young for senior competition.

After a season plagued by injury, Williams intended to run the 100m and 200m at her comeback meeting this weekend.

‘I’m just trying to get back into it,’ she said after her semi-final. ‘I’m trying to get some race fitness back. Things haven’t been going my way this year.

‘It’s been tough doing my A-levels and training at the same time but my A-levels have finished so it will be good to concentrate on running.’

Barcelona want Chelsea prodigy Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Barcelona leading City and United in chase to land Chelsea prodigy Loftus-Cheek

Barcelona are set to make a move for Chelsea youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The 16-year-old midfielder has shone for Chelsea's academy and Under 18s and has also attracted interest from Manchester rivals United and City, according to the Mirror.

Barca were impressed when seeing Loftus-Cheek score for England schoolboys against Wales in 2011.

Bright future: Chelsea's young midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek (left)

Bright future: Chelsea's young midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek (left)

In the past the Catalan giants have had academy products lured to the Premier League, such as Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique, by Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

Barca have long expressed their anger at clubs poaching their youngsters before they had signed their first professional contracts.

Young Lion: Manchester United and City are also interested in Loftus-Cheek

Young Lion: Manchester United and City are also interested in Loftus-Cheek

But now the reigning European champions are themselves hoping to take advantage of the fact that Loftus-Cheek has not yet signed a deal at Chelsea.

Theo Walcott a target for Chelsea

Walcott on Chelsea's radar as Arsenal consider offloading under-fire winger

Theo Walcott could be offered the chance to revive his career at Chelsea.

The England winger is one of several big names would could be on his way out of the misfiring Gunners this summer.

On his way Theo Walcott may be in his final year at Arsenal

On his way Theo Walcott may be in his final year at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger is prepared to launch a major rebuilding project at Arsenal as they attempt to end their search for silverware, which is now set to go beyond a seventh season.

Walcott has failed to hit the heights in an Arsenal shirt and has come under fire from fans after a string of under-par performances.

And Chelsea are ready offer make a move for the former teen prodigy as they start their own rebuilding plan at the end of the season.

Rebuilding plans: Arsene Wenger is plotting major changes this summer

Rebuilding plans: Arsene Wenger is plotting major changes this summer

Walcott only has one year left on his contract and although Wenger still retains faith in the winger, he may also decide to cash in.

The 22-year-old also knows that there will be huge offers on the table that his current club will be unable to match.