Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s rise continued on Thursday as he was named in the England squad to face Bulgaria and Kosovo.
Earlier in the summer he became the most expensive uncapped British footballer in history after completing his switch from Crystal Palace to Manchester United in a deal worth up to £50million.
Here, the PA news agency’s Simon Peach takes a look at the 21-year-old right-back’s background.
Part of the Palace academy set-up since the age of 11, he was nearly released three years later. Wan-Bissaka stayed on and was converted from winger to wing-back role when playing for the Eagles’ development side during the 2016-17 season. He did not enjoy the experience at first but facing the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie in training toughened him up, while his own time as a wide man clearly helped with the transition to a Premier League performer.
The 21-year-old had requested to go out on loan during the January 2018 transfer window but Roy Hodgson kept him at Selhurst Park, leading to an impressive debut against Tottenham on February 25, 2018. Wan-Bissaka has not looked back since. An impressive end to the 2017-18 season was followed by an outstanding 2018-19 campaign, which saw him named Palace’s player of the season by both team-mates and fans. Wan-Bissaka made 46 club appearances in total for Palace and has represented England up to under-21 level. He has started all three of Manchester United’s games this season.
Wan-Bissaka, nicknamed ‘Spider’ by some due to his long legs, has amazingly never had formal coaching on how to tackle despite his knack at winning the ball. Growing up he was more interested in doing tricks than thwarting others as he tried to replicate Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho in the park and on the pitch. The desire to make an attacking impact remains, but now there is a keen defensive edge to his game. One of the best full-backs in Europe last season,
Wan-Bissaka models his defensive play on former Barcelona, Juventus and Paris St Germain man Dani Alves. “I like the way he expresses himself in defence,” he said of the Brazil international.
“Unless you speak to him, he will not say a word,” former United player and current Palace favourite Zaha says. “Like, literally, he is in the changing room quiet – but he does his speaking on the pitch, really. I think that’s why everyone likes him. He doesn’t really chirp up much. He just comes in, does what he has to do, plays his game, plays well and just goes home.”
Wan-Bissaka’s quietness comes with self-confidence and his drive to succeed is as clear as his professionalism. Eagles boss Hodgson liked the fact that his feet remained on the ground as speculation grew last season, with his consistency, work rate and work ethic other “wonderful assets” that will see him continue to grow. But a torrid time with England Under-21s as speculation swirled about his future during June’s European Championship shows he is not immune to pressure.
Wan-Bissaka’s family have played a big role in his development and always come to his games. His mother Elizabeth and father Ambroise left the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997, making a new life for themselves in south London. Wan-Bissaka has been capped once by the youth team of his parents’ homeland, having fallen in love with football since playing in the park with older brother Kevin aged five. His father has provided salient advice for Wan-Bissaka during his rise, with one of his stock phrases being: “Good, but just keep going and keep working hard, it doesn’t stop here.”
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