For many players, the UEFA European Under-17 Championship is one of the first steps they will take en route to successful professional careers. Belgium midfielder Pieter Gerkens is no different, though he already has his sights set on who he one day hopes to emulate.
Gerkens cut a composed figure in Belgium's tournament opener against Poland on Friday, but was unable to prevent his team from going down to a 1-0 defeat. Bristling with energy and always on the lookout for a killer pass, the KRC Genk teenager already looks well down the road to modelling his game on the man who has made his position his own for more than a decade.
"I am a box-to-box player, with a lot of movement, that is my best quality for the team," Gerkens told UEFA.com. "Steven Gerrard, I would like to play like him. He's a great player for Liverpool and every game he plays is a good one." But does Gerkens possess that rifle of a right foot that Gerrard has so often used to get club and country out of jail? "Not really but I'm training to get some right like he does," added the No8.
For now, however, Gerkens and his team-mates are focusing on the job at hand, with even Friday's unfortunate reverse doing little to quell his enthusiasm. "It's all new for us because it's the first big tournament we have with our team," he added. "It's a great experience. It's a long period we are together and were are a real team right now. We have a lot of rest, we watch movies together, we talk about the games together.
"First of all we were very disappointed because we lost, but now we are really looking forward to playing against the Netherlands because it's still possible for us to get through. The first half was not too bad but the second half was not our game. We were running after the ball and we didn't play our football so I think we can improve our performance. There were many ups and downs [for me personally]; some good passes, some bad passes, some bad decisions. It was not my best game."
Iron out the prominent flaws in his game, though, and Gerkens knows where he eventually hopes to end up. "My dream is to play in a big competition in Spain or England but first of all I would like to get into the first team of a club in Belgium," he said. "After that, we will see."
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