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Why the word ‘generational’ is far too overused by football fans

By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)

After a brilliant display at Anfield in October, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp lauded Gabriel Martinelli as a “talent of the century.” A generational talent. Since this statement, the use of the adjective ‘generational’ among football fans, particularly on Twitter, has notably increased.

With plenty of up and coming talents breaking through in the world of football this year, it’s understandable why this has happened. For an avid fan, the feeling of watching one of ‘your own’ youngsters thriving at a professional level is enthralling. Thus, one is blinded somewhat by the spectacle and tends to overrate such talents.

However, the extent to which this occurs has undoubtedly increased since Klopp's statement. Fans of the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City grew jealous and pointed to the brilliant abilities of players such as Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden.

Frustratingly, but unsurprisingly, the same fans are supporting the same notions 9 months later. And this isn’t only from fans of the Manchester clubs. I can say with confidence that I’ve seen fans from every ‘top six’ team claim that they have a ‘generational’ talent within their club’s ranks.

To truly understand the term ‘generational’, it’d be good to point out some ‘generational’ talents from the current era of football. There are just two players who I’d consider to have reached such a status. The first, Lionel Messi. The second, Cristiano Ronaldo. Arguably, the two greatest players to have graced a football pitch.

This gives a clear indication of the calibre of personnel required for one to be considered as ‘generational’. Players such as Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and Johan Cruyff could also fit into this category. This is an elite level of footballing ability.

Therefore, when I read about Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi’s or Tottenham’s Troy Parrot’s ‘generational’ talent I feel somewhat insulted. No disrespect to this pair, but there is no way they are reaching the standards the players mentioned above attained at the peak of their careers.

Now, this does not mean that the Premier League does not possess any of these potentially ‘generational’ players. There is certainly ground to suggest Mason Greenwood and Gabriel Martinelli could reach such standards. The respective impacts they have had this season can easily be compared to the one Cristiano Ronaldo had during his early days at Old Trafford.

Having said that, there is still a long way to go for the duo. Both players still have some vivid weaknesses in their game and whether they fulfill their potential could be hampered by injuries or a drop in work ethic. Thus, it’s debatable whether these two should even be referred to as ‘generational’.

Perhaps one should only be judged upon whether they were ‘generational’ once they have retired. That is when you can look back retrospectively and truly assess just how a player impacted his era in the history of the beautiful game. If they changed the game, they were generational.

This piece wasn’t written to suggest fans are not allowed to get excited about the young talents at their club. I’m in no position to say that there is a specific way that you should or shouldn’t be referring to your club’s latest prodigy to force his way into the first team. It is just something that's been bugging me. The word is becoming increasingly overused and it would be disappointing to see such an elegant phrase lose its significance as an English student.

Enough of that. Enjoy watching the generational Bukayo Saka tear apart Watford on Sunday.

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