Kobbie Mainoo: England’s Future Midfield Star

Kobbie Mainoo: England’s Future Midfield Star

Airpods in with a complexion like stone, Kobbie Mainoo strode off England’s team bus with the air of a man on a mission.

Well, we say a man. He’s a kid, really. At the age of 19 years and 82 days, Mainoo became the youngest ever player to represent England in the semi-finals of a major tournament here in Dortmund on Wednesday night.

Not that the accolade would have fazed this wonderfully gifted lad from Stockport. Nothing does.

Here on the biggest night of his career, Mainoo produced a performance that flew in the face of his tender age.

Mainoo played to his own tune, controlling England’s tempo with the air of footballer who believes he belongs on this stage.

Kobbie Mainoo was immense for England as they beat the Netherlands to reach the Euros final

His injections of pace with the ball at this feet are a sight to behold.

One or two touch passing. Receiving the ball on the half-turn. Arrowing balls into forwards feet. Aerial passes. Short passes. Long passes. The boy’s got the full repertoire.

Poise, balance, intelligence, work ethic. You name it, Mainoo has it and more.

In the 20th minute, he sprinted 30 yards towards his own goal to take the ball off goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

With his back to goal, he turned, surveyed the scene before spraying an inch perfect pass out to Kieran Trippier on the left.

Three minutes later, at the other end of pitch, he drove forward ferociously with the ball stuck to his feet before releasing an inch perfect pass into Phil Foden’s path.

Moments later he was hurtling back towards his own penalty area again to thwart a dangerous Holland attack.

All action. All from a player still in his teens.

The most refreshing of Mainoo’s traits, and there are many, is his clear devotion to playing forwards.

Yes, he’ll put in the hard yards as all modern day central midfielders are required. But Mainoo isn’t one to retreat. No one for keeping possession for possession sake.

If there’s space ahead, he’ll you run into it. If there’s a forward pass to play, he’ll play it – even if it means risking the ball.

The way football should be played – and Mainoo executes it tremendously.

The most puzzling quandary Gareth Southgate faced before heading into the tournament was the identity of Declan Rice’s midfield partner.

The Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment failed, Conor Gallagher’s trial last 45 minutes.

On the evidence of England’s previous three matches here at Euro 2024, all of which Mainoo has started, the answer was staring Southgate in the face all along.

Never flustered, Mainoo exudes the sort of spirit that has largely embodied Southgate’s reign. Courage, bravery – but most pertinently of all bags of ability.

Together with Rice, the Manchester United starlet should represent the future of England’s midfield – with or without Southgate.

If Southgate departs then his successor must embrace Mainoo’s abilities; let him grow into international football. Give him room to breathe.

If that happens then the national team will reap the benefit for the next decade.

On May 25, 2024, Mail Sport begged this question after Mainoo’s man of the match performance in the FA Cup final win over arch rivals Manchester City.

‘Will Gareth Southgate give this outrageously talent kid from Stockport the keys to his midfield?,’ we queried after marvelling at his swaggering display at Wembley.

We know the answer now. Keep the keys, Kobbie. They are all yours.

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