World Cup Player Profile: Adnan Januzaj

Laurence Griffiths

Manchester United's latest youngster has the potential to be Belgium's secret weapon.

Last season wasn't a great season for Manchester United. The silver lining, though, was the emergence of Adnan Januzaj. Signed from Anderlecht at the age of 16, and given his debut by David Moyes, the free-roaming attacking midfielder stepped into professional football, and Old Trafford, as if he was born to it.

He was always going to play international football; the only question was for who. Eligible to play for Albania, Turkey and Serbia, as well as the not-yet-FIFA-affiliated Kosovo, there was a brief kerfuffle in the English media regarding a possible qualification for England through residency. Roy Hodgson confirmed that the FA were monitoring the situation. In the end, though, he opted for Belgium, land of his birth, and was called into the World Cup squad without yet having appeared for the other Red Devils.

Belgium
Attacking midfielder
Caps: 0, Goals: 0
Group H

Adnan Januzaj

Service for Belgium: None. Technically. He did make his debut for Belgium against Luxembourg in a World Cup warm-up friendly, coming on for the second half and looking pretty good in a 5-1 win. However, this game was subsequently stripped of its full international status by FIFA after it turned out that the Belgians had used too many substitutes. So, er, the game never happened, and we are all required by law to forget about it.

What makes him interesting: His grace. Watching him move with the ball is a deeply thrilling experience. Half-close your eyes, lose the focus for a second, and those loose limbs and long legs could belong to the young Johan Cruyff. Obviously he isn't anywhere near the player that the young Cruyff was (well, not yet ...) but at his best, he achieves the same preternatural, almost insultingly effortless poise.

Beyond that, though, his potential. There are still plenty of rough edges left in his game: he's 19, and sometimes he looks it. But every time he steps onto the pitch, there's a moment when he confirms the gargantuan talent that's waiting inside. He'll ghost past two players, or he'll crack in a shot with either foot, or he'll slide a pass through a gap that nobody had even seen, or he'll drop in a backheel then demand the return pass, and those watching will nod. He's got it. Whatever it is, he's got it.

What to expect in Brazil: Being a young lad with limited experience, and being in a squad alongside some established top-tier professionals, Januzaj is unlikely to feature in Belgium's starting line-up. But there are two circumstances in which we might see him. The first is if Belgium are chasing a game; should Marc Wilmots throw him on, then he'll be hoping for a similar impact to that Januzaj had against Sunderland on his full debut, when his two goals secured a win for an otherwise rubbish United. Alternatively, if Belgium are winning, then Januzaj might make his entrance with a license to have a bit of fun. In which case, sit back and enjoy.

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