England have found their first thoroughbred No.9 since Alan Shearer in Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane; have Germany found their long-term successor to Miroslav Klose in Hamburg hotshot Jann-Fiete Arp?
The 18-year-old striker makes a compelling case…
Arp joined Hamburg at the age of 10. Five years later, he was already beginning to score goals with alarming regularity for the HSV Under-17s – 37 in 45 appearances all told. It was only a matter of time before the U-19s came calling, but the exponential talent did not take long to outgrow German football's formative leagues.
"He's a massive talent," enthused Hamburg coach Markus Gisdol, who invited Arp to train with the HSV seniors for the first time in November 2016. "It's great to have a talent like him on our books. He can become a great player."
A few months on, having hit a further nine goals in seven short but sweet outings for the U-19s, as well as 15 in 17 appearances for the Germany U-17s, Arp is now a fully fledged member of the Hamburg elite. He made his Bundesliga debut on Matchday 7 of the current campaign, became the first player born in the 21st century to score in the division on Matchday 10, struck again a week later and has since featured regularly for the side.
"I've played five matches, but suddenly I'm playing against centre-backs who have 300 or more games under their belts," Arp told German daily Bild towards the end of last year. "It's pretty tiring [juggling football and school work], but I have great support and the incentive to play every weekend gets bigger and bigger. I'm also getting more experienced and stronger every week."
Watch: Arp scores his first Bundesliga goal
To say the proof is in the pudding doesn't do justice to the lean, mean goal-getting machine that Arp has become. He scores headers, scrappy follow-ups and 20-yard drives straight out of the top drawer. At 6'2", he also has the frame tailor-made for a career as a No.9 – and has the combative instinct to match.
In short, Arp bears all the hallmarks of the archetypal back-to-goal striker – a forward who can put his body between opposition players and the ball and does not relinquish possession without a fight. He can use both feet and boasts a pocket-sized turning circle Lionel Messi would be proud of. Comparisons with his self-styled role model Kane are entirely justified.
Watch: Arp's match-winning performance against Stutttgart
"There are many good strikers that you can learn a lot from by watching," Arp told UEFA in May 2017. "But if there was just one player I had to pick as my role model, it's Harry Kane. He plays the way I want to play. He's quick and very comfortable with and without the ball. It's difficult to stop him. You need to pay attention for 90 minutes because he can score at any time."
There is no arguing with Arp’s adulation. Kane, 24, has scored 102 times in the English Premier League since breaking into the Tottenham first team during the 2013/14 season. He spearheaded England’s successful FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, and found the net more often than anybody else in the 2017 calendar year with 56 goals.
"He went through all the youth teams in his club, became a first-team player at that club and was even the Premier League’s top scorer, twice," Arp explained. "Now, he's an international. In the space of three years, Kane has made every step that you dream of as a young player."
Watch: Arp on life in the Bundesliga with Hamburg
Arp's dream, however, is fast becoming reality. In 2017 alone, the Hamburg starlet has top scored in the U-17 Bundesliga and at the FIFA 2017 U-17 World Cup, turned down a move to Chelsea, received the prestigious Fritz Walter gold medal for his age group – a prize given to German football’s brightest up-and-coming talents - and made the Bundesliga stage his own. By comparison, Kane's big break didn't come until 2013, when he was 20.
With a three-year head start on his English muse, there is no telling what Arp might go on to achieve. If he succeeds in maximizing his potential long term – as Kane has for club and country – Germany could have a very special player on their hands indeed.