Marcus Edwards is shining in Lisbon after Tottenham let him go
EXCLUSIVE: Pochettino was just trying to help me when he compared me to Messi… it got blown out of proportion! Marcus Edwards was let go by Spurs despite rich praise but is now shining for Sporting Lisbon and set to take on his former club
- Sporting Lisbon winger Marcus Edwards was released by Tottenham in 2019
- Former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino likened Edwards to Lionel Messi at 17
- Spurs face Edwards and Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League on Tuesday
- Sporting’s Ruben Amorim thinks Edwards has what it takes to play for England
Marcus Edwards might easily have wound up on the sizeable scrapheap of football’s failed wonderkids.
He was hailed as Tottenham’s future and likened to Lionel Messi at 17, then jettisoned at 20 with a reputation for being difficult and only a breezy cameo in a cup tie against Gillingham to his name.
Such a narrative can be difficult to reverse and yet Edwards has rebuilt his career in Portugal, has been sparkling this season in the famous green hoops of Sporting Lisbon and is preparing for a first reunion with Spurs.
Sporting Lisbon’s Marcus Edwards was let go by Tottenham after being hailed as Spurs’ future
‘The feeling is a bit strange,’ Edwards tells Sportsmail. ‘I was at the club for so long, half my career. So it’s crazy to think I’m going to be playing against Spurs in a Champions League fixture.
‘It will bring back a lot of good memories. I still remember training at the old training ground after school. The club has grown a lot since. And I still have some old team-mates who broke through the first team so it will be good to see them.’
He knows Tuesday night’s Group D fixture in Lisbon will reheat some of the interest that erupted when Mauricio Pochettino compared his technique and dribbling prowess, with a low centre of gravity, to that of a young Messi — a comment the then Tottenham boss was quick to regret.
‘I think that was said to help me in a way,’ says Edwards. ‘Just to put me out there and give me some recognition as he thought I was a good player. I think it got blown out of proportion a little bit but there were good intentions behind it.
Mauricio Pochettino once said that Edwards reminded him of ex-Barcelona star Lionel Messi
‘He brought me into the first team and believed in me so I appreciate it. I don’t think about it so it doesn’t really affect me.’
Edwards left Tottenham without fanfare in the summer of 2019 in the shadow of the club’s first appearance in a Champions League final.
Injuries frustrated his progress at key stages and a loan at Norwich went badly, and ended prematurely, although a season with Excelsior in Rotterdam was more encouraging and set the seed for a move overseas.
After training with Brentford and links to Udinese, Edwards signed for Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal and so began the reinvention.
For all his natural talent his personality is not brash, rather shy and introverted, according to those who know him well. Away from London, he found the time and space to realign his ambition.
‘I think this journey has made me into a better player,’ he says. ‘It has helped me grow up in a lot of ways. I’ve had to learn things on my own in a way and get my head down and focus in a new environment.
Edwards has scored three goals and provided three assists for Sporting so far this campaign
‘It’s not easy moving away from friends and family but I did it so I can better my future. Vitoria was a club that pushed me and allowed me to showcase myself.’
Edwards worked hard, scoring 20 and registering 14 assists in two-and-a-half years at Vitoria, and will never forget his first goal for them, at Arsenal in the Europa League. ‘My best memory,’ he agrees.
At 23, he is flourishing once again. His impressive form prompted a move by Sporting boss Ruben Amorim in January and Edwards has adapted to his life in Lisbon, where he says he passes most free time ‘chilling’ and playing video games.
Edwards made his first Champions League appearance in the last 16 against Manchester City last season, and helped his team finish as runners-up in the Portuguese league behind Porto.
Edwards said: ‘[Pochettino] brought me into the first team and believed in me so I appreciate it’
Premier League clubs will have their scouts in place. Sporting sold Matheus Nunes to Wolves and Joao Palhinha to Fulham this summer. Players who succeed in Portugal’s top flight tend not to stay there long.
This season, Edwards has stepped up again, a fixture in the front three, shouldering more responsibility after Nunes and Palhinha’s departures, and has made an excellent start with three goals, including the opener in a 3-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt.
‘We have big ambitions and we believe in ourselves,’ says Edwards, who is eligible for Cyprus through his mother but represented England through all the age groups to Under 20s and has not given up on senior recognition.
Antonio Conte’s side travel to Lisbon to face Sporting in the Champions League on Tuesday
Sporting boss Amorim said: ‘He has so much talent. He can get much better. He can even get to the English national team. I trust him a lot. I know he can grow a lot.’
Edwards added: ‘We know Spurs are a good team but we’re confident in our abilities and ready for this fixture. We had a good start against Frankfurt where we showed what we can do.
‘The team had great chemistry not just on the field but everyone gets along off the pitch, there’s loads of laughs and good vibes.’
Tottenham will be well aware of the threat.
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