USMNT target Folarin Balogun reveals Ronaldo & Kylian Mbappe to be his role models & discusses finishing classes with Arsenal icon Thierry Henry

Ronaldo Folarin Balogun Kylian MbappeGetty/GOAL
  • Promising striker tied to Gunners
  • Starring on loan in France
  • Hoping to emulate modern day greats

WHAT HAPPENED? The 21-year-old striker, who is contracted to Arsenal but has been catching the eye on loan at Ligue 1 side Reims this season, has become one of the hottest properties in European football. Balogun is being linked with a big-money transfer this summer, while he must also decide whether he wants to play for England or the United States at senior level. He harbours ambitions of reaching the very top of the game, with a couple of World Cup-winning icons from Brazil and France providing inspiration to the promising frontman.

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WHAT THEY SAID: Balogun has told Ligue 1’s official website when asked about his heroes: “I looked at Ronaldo, the Brazilian one, a lot of times on YouTube. And then, a more recent example, Mbappe at PSG. I was only watching the World Cup with everyone else a few weeks ago. And I mean, what he has done, for someone so young, is phenomenal. He's already won it. I looked at his game, the efficiency as well, and I try to replicate it in mine.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: While the likes of Ronaldo and Mbappe highlight what can be achieved at international level, on a club stage Balogun has been fortunate enough to work with and pick the brains of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. He added on training sessions with the French superstar: “Yeah, of course, I can't speak highly enough of him. When I was in the youth teams at Arsenal, there was a day that he came in to coach us, and he held a finishing exercise. I think I must have been about 12 or 13. And some of the finishes he was pulling out, I hadn't seen before. So, I mean, I always admired him, and when I first got to Arsenal I could really see the importance of him in the club.”


Folarin Balogun Reims 2022-23Getty Images

Ronaldo Brazil 2002Getty

Thierry Henry Arsenal Leeds 2012

WHAT NEXT? Balogun clearly took important lessons from Henry’s finishing school as he has registered 18 goals for Reims across all competitions this season, leading to lively debate as to whether his future now lies in north London or elsewhere.