With reports surfacing that West Ham are set to demand over £100m for Decan Rice, it casts our minds to a former wonderkid, who catapulted himself into the global limelight with a wondrous performance at the Emirates Stadium in August 2015.
A then 16-year-old Reece Oxford excellently kept tabs on World Cup-winning Mesut Ozil to announce his limitless potential.
However, since this, his career has unravelled into an underwhelming spiral of disappointment as the prodigy remains one of the Premier League’s greatest anti-climaxes.
What did Reece Oxford achieve at West Ham?
The Englishman joined the Hammers academy from city rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2011 and expertly rose through the ranks.
Whilst he was still a U15 schoolboy, the youngster regularly appeared for the U18 team and made the bench for the senior side for a League Cup encounter in 2014 to underline his monstrous pedigree.
As a result, the coveted talent signed a long-term professional contract with the east London outfit in 2015 and was crowned the Academy Player of the Year later.
Reverberations of his quality were unavoidably permeating through Upton Park and Oxford make his competitive, first-team debut in the summer of 2015, starring in midfield in a 3-0 win against Andorran club Lusitanos in a UEFA Europa League first qualifying round first-leg tie.
On the opening day of the 2015/16 season, the pivot made his infamous Premier League debut in a 2-0 victory over the Gunners to become the second-youngest top-flight starter of all time.
His manager Slaven Bilic was astounded at his introduction but warned that the player must be protected in order to unlock his career, saying: “He’s definitely going to be a big player but the risk is not over. He’s 16 and that is his only disadvantage. He’s going to have ups and downs. We have to manage him now not only on the pitch but off it too.
“The boy has got everything. Everything. Let’s be fair. Ozil, Cazorla, and Ramsey are world-class players. It’s not easy to minimize their game. He’s definitely going to make it if he progresses and keeps his feet on the ground.”
Throughout the rest of that campaign, Oxford would make another six Premier League appearances, and ahead of the next season, he was named in the Daily Telegraph’s list of the best youth prospects in English football.
To solidify his experience, the gem was sent out on loan to Reading and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Max Eberl, the sporting director of the latter, described Oxford as one of England’s “best young defensive talents.”
However, in four different loan spells, he failed to ever nail down consistent game-time and was released by Manuel Pellegrini, cementing himself as one who never truly made it, permanently transferring to Augsburg in 2019.
This term, he has been limited to just three Bundesliga appearances due to injury and has drifted into mediocrity – light years off where he was predicted to be back in 2015.
Considering that one month separates the ages of Rice and Oxford, and the frightening trajectory that the club captain is currently on, it is an immense shame that the latter hasn’t fulfilled expectations.
Indeed, he and Rice could well have been a starring combo, one that would have earned the club a sizable sum had they both met their potential.
Instead, while the latter has gone on to become a fully-fledged England international, the other is struggling to make a name for himself elsewhere in Europe.