Rayan Cherki: 8 Things to Know About France’s Latest Wonderkid

​Rayan Cherki has been making a real name for himself at Lyon, despite the fact that he is only 16 years old.

Cherki’s performances during the 2019/20 season, both at youth level and in the first team, have seen him attract attention from the likes of ​Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, ​Real Madrid and many others.

Generational talent is a term that is often loosely thrown around at will, but Cherki has all the necessary attributes to become a genuine star of the future. 

So with this in mind, 90min takes a look at eight key things to know about the youngster…


He’s Versatile

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So, first things first, what’s his style of play I hear you ask. Well, Cherki is versatile and can operate on either flank, up front as a striker, or in the hole behind the centre forward. Cherki has already proven, however, that he is most effective when operating as an attacking midfielder. 

Yes, he may be extremely young, but it is remarkable just how complete the youngster appears to be as a footballer so early on in his career. Cherki possesses speed, lightning quick feet, dazzling skill, vision, awareness and he has an eye for goal too. 

Cherki has drawn comparisons with Hatem Ben Arfa, who of course was sensational on his day. With Cherki continuing to grow in height and in physicality, he will soon become an even more imposing and threatening footballer but has work to do on the defensive side of his game.


He’s Enjoyed A Meteoric Rise Through the Ranks

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Mathis Rayan Cherki joined French outfit AS Saint-Priest aged just six, before moving on to Lyon just a year later.

Such is the talent that Cherki possesses, whatever age group he played in, he was getting the better of his opponents with considerable ease. But aged 13, a case of knee osteochondritis – a condition that can stunt a teenage athlete’s growth – saw the talented young man ruled out of action for almost a year. 

But he showed the drive and desire to come back and pick up right where he left off, terrorising defenders in age categories far above his tender years.


He Once Was the UEFA Youth League’s Youngest Goalscorer


In September 2018, Cherki became the youngest goalscorer in the UEFA Youth League as he netted during his side’s 4-1 win over ​Manchester City, aged just 15 years and 33 days.

In fact, it actually took him just four minutes to make his mark. The teenager was brought on for the final eight minutes of the clash with his side 2-1 up and looking to see out the game. But his low drive into the bottom corner put the game past City’s youngsters, before a fourth was added just one minute later. 

Unfortunately for Cherki, he no longer holds the record for youngest goalscorer in the competition – with Borussia Dortmund’s wonderkid Youssoufa Moukoko continuing to make a real impact at youth level. 


He Did Something Special Against Bretigny 


Imagine playing in an Under-19 tournament aged just 15 and running the show – so much so that the opposition’s fans are calling for you to receive the ball at every opportunity.

Imagine.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s what happened to Cherki. In a Coupe Gambardella clash with Bretigny in January 2019, Cherki grabbed two assists to help his Under-19 Lyon side to a comfortable 2-0 win to progress to the next round. But the youngster’s overall impact on the game was truly astonishing, performing all kinds of tricks (see above for the outrageous rainbow flick) to get past his man, before showing an end product.

The home fans were enthralled by his talents and irrespective of the fact he was simply outplaying their team (again, aged 15!), they began cheering his name and shirt number. 


He’s Shone Brightly During the 2019/20 UEFA Youth League

Cherki’s fine form in the UEFA Youth League has continued, with the youngster netting four times in five games in the competition before football was suspended due to the coronavirus crisis. 

He netted in the opening game against Zenit before scoring and setting up a goal against RB Leipzig the following match. Cherki went on to grab a brace against Benfica, with the first goal a sublime chip over the goalkeeper. The versatile attacker then struck once more against Bergamo. 


He’s Already Broken Into Lyon’s First Team

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Cherki’s performances at youth level meant he was surely not too far away from making the step up to the first team. 

Indeed, he made his Ligue 1 debut back in October 2019, during a 0-0 draw with Dijon. And he followed this up by becoming the second-youngest player to play in the Champions League when he made his debut in November 2019.

With goals and assists under his belt, he’s already a trusted player in Lyon’s dressing room – evidenced by the decision to start him against heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain.


Kylian Mbappe Is a Fan


If you’re going to impress anybody among your peers, there’s probably few better players than Kylian Mbappé.

But that’s exactly what Cherki did when he showed everybody what he could do against Bourg-en-Bresse, opening his account for the club in the Coupe de France. He then followed up that performance by dismantling Nantes; grabbing two goals and two assists in a thrilling 4-3 win.

His dictation of play and ability to create chances stood out most, as well as his immense composure. Such was his performance, Mbappé remarked on Twitter that ‘You shouldn’t talk too much about age, huh’.


He’s Wanted Everywhere


With everything that’s already been mentioned, you’d expect that there is plenty of interest in his services. And you’d be correct. 

​A source told 90min back in December of 2019 that club president Jean-Michel Aulas was aware that he’s fighting a losing battle to keep hold of Cherki, even though he penned a three-year contract only last summer. 

The likes of ​Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid, ​Barcelona, ​Bayern Munich and ​Juventus have all shown an interest….that’s a lot of top European sides. 

Cherki, however, ​is said to be determined to join Los Blancos as he is keen to work under Zinedine Zidane. We shall see…


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