The Frenchman may have signed a new deal back in June to remain at the Groupama Stadium until 2023, but the highly-rated attacking midfielder continues to be tracked by Europe’s biggest clubs.
Cherki, a France Under-16 international, joins an array of talent who have come through the ranks of the academy. Nabil Fekir, Karim Benzema, Corentin Tolisso, Alexandre Lacazette and Samuel Umtiti are just a few of the names to have made the grade and gone on to seek pastures new after impressing. Current captain Houssem Aouar is another who is likely to get snapped up in the near future, too.
Touted for the top, Cherki has drawn plaudits for his outstanding displays at the heart of Rudi Garcia’s midfield, despite only making a total of 13 appearances in all competitions last season.
“My dream is to play for Real Madrid,” he stated previously in an interview with Lyon TV. If he moved to the Spanish capital, Cherki would follow in the footsteps of compatriot Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabéu.
With Lyon continuing to churn out talent from their famed youth academy, here is all you need to know about the latest sensation from their production line…
Born in Lyon, Cherki, first made his mark as a 15-year-old for Olympique Lyon U19’s. The youngster who can represent both Algeria and Italy due to his parents as well as France, netted in a 4-1 victor over Manchester City U19’s in the UEFA Youth League in 2018. It was here where his journey began.
When it comes to finding the net, the youngster is certainly a player you can count on. A year later, Cherki scored four goals in the 2019-20 UEFA Youth League and following this, was subsequently promoted to first-team duties and made his European debut in November 2019 against Zenit Saint Petersburg in the UEFA Champions League.
His league debut came against Dijon in a 0-0 draw in October of last year, at just 16 years and 63 days. Cherki then scored his first senior goal in a 7–0 win over Bourg-Péronnas in the Coupe de France back in January of this year. In doing so, he became the youngest ever player to score a senior goal for Lyon, aged 16 years and 140 days.
Last season, Cherki found the net three times and registered two assists, with two of his strikes and his assists coming in a Coupe de France victory against Nantes in January.
He most recently came on as a substitute in Lyon’s 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in this season’s UEFA Champions League semi-final. In doing so, he became the youngest ever play to feature in a European semi-final.
.@OL_English's Rayan Cherki is now the youngest ever player in a UCL Semifinal 😎
What were you doing at 17? 😂 pic.twitter.com/OOHnpEYEF9
— International Champions Cup (@IntChampionsCup) August 19, 2020
Being versatile, he can play in any position across the midfield, ideally in a 4-3-3 formation. A keen eye for a pass, he is also a fine dribbler and is perfect at reading the game despite being just 17. With quick feet and excellent vision, he thrives at taking on defenders in the final third and likes to go for goal. Being a technical player, he is also able to escape difficult situations due to his outstanding control of the ball.
An area to improve is working on his defensive side of the game, but as he gets more games under his belt this will no doubt come naturally to such a gifted and talented youngster.
What they’ve said
The youngster previously received praise from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappé who said: ‘Don’t talk too much about age’ following Cherki’s brace and assists against Nantes.
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) January 18, 2020
He also received recognition from Nantes manager Christian Gourcuff after Lyon’s 4-3 win back in January.
Gourcuff said: ‘He has a big future. He’s a very, very good footballer’, he told Besoccer after the match and former teammate Martin Terrier even described him as a “phenomenon.”
— Dugout (@Dugout) January 21, 2020
Manager Rudi Garcia has also spoken highly of Cherki, saying: “He has a strong ability to beat players but uses it too much and not especially wisely.
“We have to be careful with our young players, that’s why we protect him a lot, especially in the media aspect of things.
“He is fairly quiet, but he must be aware that he still has huge room for improvement. The good thing about him is that he listens. If he continues like this, he will be able to go as high as possible.”
What does the future hold?
No doubt Cherki will continue to impress, suggesting the teenager could be another that Lyon sees leaving to one of Europe’s heavyweights but at a price.
Expect him to play a crucial role for Garcia’s side next season and light up Ligue 1, which will most likely signal his departure at the end of the 2020/21 campaign.
In terms of international prospects, one positive for the youngster is the fact Euro 2020 will take place next summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. Cherki will look to continue to catch the eye of Didier Deschamps and force his way into his squad for the tournament next summer.
Should he continue to impress, then expect the youngster to go one better than Mbappé in the future and get his ‘dream’ move to Real Madrid. It seems Lyon have a real talent on their hands, but for how long?
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