Werder Bremen’s teenage striker Josh Sargent has cited England’s all-time record goalscorer Wayne Rooney as one of his idols.
Rooney burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 16-year-old and went on to score 208 goals in 491 English Premier League appearances for Everton and Manchester United. Now Sargent is making waves of his own in the Bundesliga.
The 18-year-old USA international scored with his first top-flight touch just 86 seconds into his debut and has two goals in five substitute appearances since being promoted from Bremen’s U23 side.
Strong, good in the air and boasting superb technique, Sargent’s similarities with the Englishman, who currently plays in the USA's Major League Soccer for D.C. United, don’t stop at their precocious breakthroughs.
Watch: Josh Sargent made a flying start to his Bundesliga career
"I liked Wayne Rooney a lot. I liked his style of play and how powerful he was on the ball," Sargent told Werder’s official website. "I looked up to him."
And it’s not only Rooney who inspired young Sargent, who ended up choosing football as a profession when a career in the NBA could also have been in the offing.
"My father was obviously a role model to me. He never played in the same position as me but he helped to define the characteristics of my game. I always looked up to him.
"My father was a centre-back while my mother was a fast attacker. She liked to claim that all my best traits as a striker come from her. My father believes it was a combination of the two."
Like Rooney before him, Sargent finds himself shouldering an enormous weight of expectation back in his homeland. He, along with Bundesliga-based countrymen Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Haji Wright and Tyler Adams, is seen as one of the USA's beacons of hope ahead of the 2022 and 2026 FIFA World Cups - not that he's feeling any pressure.
"I wouldn’t say that I feel the pressure. People can have their opinions, whether they see me as the next big talent or just an average player. I don’t really enjoy hearing other people’s views. I’m focusing purely on my own expectations, and how good I should be performing.
"Besides, the support recently has been phenomenal. Of course, I’ve been getting a lot from my family, but also a lot of people back home are pleased for me, and are tweeting words of encouragement, for example, and congratulating me. I can feel their love."
The next aim for Sargent is to play regular first-team football, but a look at Rooney’s maiden season at Everton is a reminder that patience is a virtue - and good things come to those who wait.
Rooney spent a large portion of his freshman campaign jumping off the bench and his constant desire to improve, underpinned by tremendous work ethic, is another admirable trait Sargent shares with his formative idol.
Speaking of the demands he places on himself, Sargent said: "I’m very critical, as well as very competitive and performance-orientated, so I don’t enjoy it when I can’t do something. If I notice that I’ve done something wrong or I can’t do something, I try to make amends as soon as possible."