A new Roony has arrived - sort of.

2023’s biggest star was literally a Rooney regen destined for the top

As 2023 draws to a close, we’re reflecting on an incredible year of football that has seen new treble winners crowned, new wonderkids emerge and much more.

Like sportswashing in football, your dad making everybody watch the king’s speech on Christmas Day and Manchester United collapsing every 18 months, some things never change.

One constant within the beautiful game that we do love, though, while being incredibly envious of them, is that defining moment where a young baller bursts onto the scene and announces themselves in spectacular fashion to the world on the big stage.

There’s a fine line to appreciating a wonderkid. On one hand, there’s nothing more pure about football than watching genuine talent prosper, following a player’s journey as they hopefully make it to the top and fulfil their potential.

But on the other hand, as we collectively approach an age where we listen to BBC Radio Two out of choice and realise our chances of magically becoming a young baller at a dream football club have long gone, watching others achieve the dream becomes a hard pill to swallow.

However, one player caught our eye late in 2023 who is so unbelievably promising that we aren’t even envious of his talent. He’s ticking every box one can imagine from the eye test to the name and it’s left us pretty speechless.

Roony Bardghji has been carving a path to superstardom since his Champions League debut in 2022 and quietly plugging away in Sweden ever since, but it was his 87th-minute winner against Manchester United back in November which announced him to the world.

A then-17-year-old named Roon(e)y putting the dagger into the back of United under the European lights? Scripts don’t come better written than this.

For many, that was our first introduction to Bardghji, a Kuwait-born Swedish under-21 international plying his trade at Copenhagen. But the story only just got started with his impact against the club that was home to their very own legendary Rooney.

It was quite eerie watching a supremely talented teenager who (sort of) shares the name of United’s all-time top scorer put the nail in their 2023-24 Champions League coffin. Roony is much more than just that one moment, though, and his breakout 2023 has been testament to that.

Blessed with a left foot sculpted by the god and a nonchalance to the way he strides with the ball, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’d adopted the name Roony after watching the former United man every weekend and on his ‘Street Striker’ series.

There’s just something about how Bardghji cuts through the pitch with the ball at his feet which is mesmerising. He moves so naturally and covers ground frighteningly quickly while in possession.

Pair that up with delicious flicks around the corner and a desire to zap any defender even if they are twice his age, there are parallels to a young Rooney in the 18-year-old’s game with how natural he makes it look.

While still exceptionally raw, his goal against United and the mazy dribbles through gaps that previously didn’t exist are both examples of how he’s capable of bursts of the extraordinary. You just know he got kicked to bits at youth level – and still gets it now.

He’s already played 30 times this season and bagged 11 goals despite only turning 18 the week after scoring the winner against United. That’s an aura we aren’t used to seeing often.

As first chapters go, Bardghji’s was quite outrageous, but we back him to continue on the path to greatness he’s fired himself onto in 2024.

By Mitch Wilks

READ NEXT: The 14 players to score in the Champions League before turning 18

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the top scorer from every Champions League season?