In the past few decades of English football, few players have been as iconic as Paul Gascoigne.
The National Football Museum describes Gazza as “one of the most naturally gifted footballers of his generation,” and it’s hard to argue.
He played with a swagger and a style that made him impossible not to love as a footballer, which, combined with his infamous activities off the pitch, made him one of England‘s most well-known players.
One of his best moments came at Euro 96, where he was the mercurial, flawed genius at the heart of everyone’s favourite England nearly-team.
His club career saw him grow at Newcastle before leaving for Tottenham. Then it was on to Italy with Lazio and Scotland with Rangers where he became a much-loved figure, winning several major honours.
As a result of Gascoigne’s status in the English press, it’s become almost a cliche for different outlets to label up-and-coming players as ‘the new Gazza’ for their talent and style both on and off the pitch.
Here are 5 players who have been adorned with the title.
One of the first, if not the first, to be declared the second-coming of Gascoigne, Joe Cole was something of a phenomenon when he emerged out of West Ham’s youth academy.
His raw, natural talent was obvious and the manner in which he played with what almost constituted arrogance at such a young age quickly meant comparisons were drawn with Gascoigne.
The perceived similarities only increased when Kevin Keegan called him “Gascoigne-esque” when calling him up for England in 2000.
His performances over the course of his England career were impressive, particularly in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup, where he scored a stunning goal against Sweeden.
Cole would leave West Ham for Chelsea in 2003 and then onto Liverpool in 2010, but injuries contributed to him never reaching the full extent of his potential.
For nearly a decade, Jack Wilshere was a cult hero at the Emirates for Arsenal.
He emerged as a young talent out of Arsenal’s youth system and, following a successful loan with Bolton, he was thrust into the north London side’s first team in 2010.
His early performances impressed and he became England’s 10th youngest debutant in August of 2010. An exciting midfield talent with bags of potential, a bit of swagger to him, and an early England cap? You know where this is going…
The comparisons with Gascoigne really began as Wilshere hit his stride at the heart of Arsenal’s midfield and only got lounder as Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup grew nearer.
Injuries and a decline in performances meant Wilshere’s place at Arsenal became uncertain and his place in the England setup disappeared. After unsuccessful stints with Bournemouth and West Ham, Wilshere is now a free agent but has recently trained back with Arsenal.
When Ross Barkley emerged at Everton in the 2013-14 season, it did not take long for the clamor around the new English attacking midfield talent to begin declaring him the next in line to Gascoigne’s still empty throne.
It’s easy to forget that for a good few seasons Barkley was one of England’s most exciting young attacking talents, seeming to ooze a certain X-factor that the British press and pundits likened to Gascoigne’s.
He made his England debut in August 2013 and traveled to the 2014 World Cup, with even Roy Hodgson drawing comparisons between the Everton player and the mercurial Gascoigne.
Since moving to Chelsea in 2017, Barkley has struggled to hold down a starting spot at the London side and after a good start to his loan with Aston Villa, last season is now back at Chelsea trying to fight for a place in the squad.
Has bunches of natural talent? Check. Known off-the-pitch as well as on it? Check. An impressive Euros display in a tournament where England came agonisingly close to winning? Check.
It’s completely unsurprising Jack Grealish has been declared as Gascoigne’s one true heir (after, of course, all the other heirs before him were obviously not really the heir for one reason or another).
Not much needs to be said about the talent of Grealish, who stayed with Aston Villa through the Championship, became club captain, led them back to the Premier League, and now plays for Manchester City after his £100m move made him the single most expensive Englishman in footballing history.
Whether you agree with his decision to move, it has only made his status in English football grow. So too did his impressive displays at the Euros where he was an important part of the squad which came so close to glory.
But it would be fair to say that rather than being the next Paul Gascoigne, Grealish has his eyes set on making his own name.
When Foden got that haircut last summer, he had to have noticed the similarities to Gascoigne’s famous Euro 96 trim. If not, he certainly did the day after when the press got hold of pictures.
It was an absolute frenzy, with people predicting exactly what minute he was going to recreate THAT goal against Scotland at the Euros, because obviously, he was going to… right?
Before the haircut, more than enough people had begun to draw the similarities between the Foden and Gascoigne, with Foden deemed “the Stockport Gazza”.
The young man Pep Guardiola once described as “the most talented player I have ever seen” certainly carries himself on the pitch in a way that resembles Gascoigne’s peak, but there is a sense that Phil Foden could be so much more than just another Gascoigne tribute act.
Only time will tell.